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Forum set to discuss oil rigs’ impact on ecosystem set for Bush Library

CAITLIN PERRONE | The Eagle (Bryan, Texas)

The 4,000 active oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico become the homes to marine life that otherwise wouldn’t have shelter in open waters, and a well-known Gulf of Mexico conservationist is trying to keep those towers intact.

These natural gas and oil structures eventually become their own ecosystems, and removing them could harm fish habitats. Rather than extricate the towers, the Rigs-to-Reefs program, a nationwide program developed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, recycles the byproducts of the oil industry into artificial reefs.

The George Bush Library is holding a library issues forum for “Rigs to Reefs” next week, at which Quenton Dokken, the president and CEO of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, will speak.

The marine scientist served as associate director of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Center for Coastal Studies and the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gulf of Mexico Regional Marine Research Program. He said by phone on Thursday the structures function as natural reefs by capturing energy from the sun and exporting energy and nutrients.

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“They function as a very dynamic and productive cog in the overall ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico,” Dokken said.

While the best option would be to leave the structures in place, he said that often is a safety hazard. Dokken said the second best option is leave them upright and cut them about 80 feet from the top, and third best option is to cut them off at the sea bed and move them to another area that is designated for reef structure materials.

The discussion will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum’s Orientation Theater. Following Dokken’s talk, there will be a reception in the rotunda. Participants will also receive a free DVD of the movie Rigs to Reefs.

The event is free but seating is limited, and reservations are recommended.


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