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Chevron, state reach $5.3 million settlement in Willard Bay spill

SALT LAKE CITY — Chevron has agreed to a $5.3 million settlement for a fuel spill from a pipeline rupture in March that kept half of one of Utah's most popular camping destinations shut down for the summer.

The settlement includes $550,000 to compensate the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation for the forced closure of the northern marina, campground and boat launch at Willard Bay State Park, which had to limp through the summer with scaled-back services.

Chevron received credit for $719,000 in projects already completed at the state park and will also get a nod for a new $600,000 handicapped-accessible trail that will bolster the park's amenities, according to John Whitehead, assistant director of the state Division of Water Quality.

A March 18 rupture of an 8-inch pipeline adjacent to the park sent 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel through a wetlands area, damaging habitat for beavers and water fowl and contaminating shallow groundwater.

Some of the fuel traveled down slope to the reservoir, where numerous protective booms were laced through the water to capture the petrochemicals.

The fuel spill caused severe burns and other complications to a family of beavers whose lodge was credited with keeping much of the fuel from spreading farther than it did. The beavers spent several months recuperating at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Ogden before being returned to the wild.

Chevron received a citation from state water quality regulators a month later, and Whitehead noted the penalty negotiated is more substantial monetarily given Chevron's track record with two previous spills at Red Butte Creek. The company agreed to pay $350,000 paid to the division as a civil penalty.

The settlement includes $4.4 million to pay for mitigation projects that do not necessarily have to be related to any of the damages incurred at Willard Bay, Whitehead noted.

As in the Chevron Red Butte spill from 2010, the public and various environmental groups will have a chance to weigh in on appropriate water quality restoration projects.

Although the park opened near the end of the summer boating and fishing season, a section remains fenced off as the division continues to wait on the final determinations of a public health and ecological risk assessment.

"We are looking at the results of that to determine if there is any indication of lingering contaminants," Whitehead said. "We'll then make a scientific assessment about any sort of threat."

Fred Hayes, director of the parks and recreation division, said he believes the settlement will address the problems caused by the spill and compensate it for lost revenue to the state park.

The public has 30 days to weigh in on the settlement reached by the division and Chevron. Written comments on the draft settlement document and related compliance order can be sent to Emily Bartusek at ebartusek@utah.gov, or P.O. Box 144870, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4870. Comments must be received before 5 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2014.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16