Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell  presented the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the National Ocean Council (NOC) the Department’s Partners in Conservation Award for their collaborative efforts to partner federal and state agencies with stakeholders to develop a national-level policy governing the conversion of obsolete offshore oil and natural gas platforms into artificial reefs.The Partners in Conservation Awards recognize outstanding examples of conservation legacies achieved when the Department of the Interior engages groups and individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds, ages and interests to work collaboratively to renew lands and resources.

“We are extremely proud to be recognized with this award, and we greatly appreciate the leadership of the NOC and the engagement of our partner agencies in this collaborative effort,” BSEE Director Brian Salerno said. “Through this partnership, we are paving the way for greater stakeholder involvement in federal and state decision-making as offshore oil and gas companies work to meet their decommissioning obligations.”

BSEE and the NOC convened an interagency working group with representatives from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to engage Gulf Coast state agencies, the oil and gas industry, commercial and recreational fishing groups, diving groups and the general public to discuss needed changes to the artificial reefing process, commonly known as “Rigs to Reefs.” The resulting federal policy provides states the greatest flexibility in their artificial reef planning while balancing environmental and safety concerns with the various other uses for Outer Continental Shelf lands.

Critical to the collaboration were stakeholder groups such as the Coastal Conservation Association, the Charter Fisherman’s Association, the American Sportfishing Association the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council and representatives from the shrimping, site clearance and decommissioning communities and the oil and gas industry.

The Rigs to Reefs process provides ecosystem and economic sustainability by creating healthy and robust marine habitats while improving the long-term viability of fishing, diving, and tourism industries. The process has generated more than $100 million for states, which helps these local economies to be more sustainable, while producing a variety of ancillary benefits, such as capital improvement projects. The process is now paving the way as a collaborative planning tool to provide for greater stakeholder involvement in federal and state decision-making regarding the artificial reefing process.

To learn more about the “Rigs to Reefs” policy, please click here.

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