CAPE CORAL — Resurrecting life isn’t too much to ask of BP, a Cape Coral businessman contends in a recent claim filed with the oil company.
Rather than just requesting money lost by his underwater burial service, Matt Blaisdell, 41, said he wants BP to create new habitats to attract life back to areas afflicted by oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico hundreds of miles from Southwest Florida.
“Giving money to all the people along the Gulf Coast is great, but it’s not going to create life where they’ve been taking it,” Blaisdell said.
Artificial reefs will create that new life, said the owner of Poseidon’s Garden, which provides memorial sites in an artificial reef about 10 miles off Sanibel Island.
Blaisdell’s first reef was placed in March on a near-lifeless sea bottom that is now swarming with life. He fears the underwater oil geyser will put it and other marine life at risk.
It’s also personal for Blaisdell.
Poseidon’s Garden includes ashes of Blaisdell’s parents, who died before getting their dream business, the memorial reef, off the ground.
Blaisdell’s father, David, died April 30, 2009, and his mother, Gloria, died just a few weeks later on June 20.
This is the first in a series of occasional reports about Southwest Floridians filing claims because of the BP oil spill. Are you among the hoteliers, fishermen, charter boat captains, boat salesmen or others requesting compensation due to the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico? Contact Daily News staffer Kelly Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (239) 877-3215 or at facebook.com/kelfarrell
“What’s so upsetting about this is that Poseidon’s Garden is so much more than a business. It’s my father’s legacy,” Blaisdell said.
The initial claim filed with BP on June 15 requested the oil company place 10 artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, which his company could do at a cost of $5,000 each.
However, a visit to the BP claims office in Naples yielded a “no” from claims adjusters to the reef request, Blaisdell said.
They’re only interested in cutting checks, Blaisdell said.
That’s fine for the short term, he decided. The money, if it’s ever received, will be used to put more reefs in Lee County waters, Blaisdell said.
However, for the long term, Blaisdell is seeking anyone with experience writing legislation to contact him, at (239) 549-0000, and help require oil companies to place artificial reefs in the Gulf.
That may be a great idea, said Marco Island Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie, because artificial reefs boost tourism and help the environment.
“It creates a habitat in areas that without it are just desert,” Richie said.
“It’s like the movie: ‘Build it and they will come.’ It’s amazing how fast it happens,” she added.
Making a claim
Naples BP Claims office, 4121 U.S. 41 East, still doesn’t have a direct phone line. However, claims may be filed online or through the main phone number: 1 (800) 440-0858.
Once the gusher is capped and catastrophe measured, reefs may mitigate destroyed marine habitat just as the government would require on land, she said.
Florida is known for having a vast amount of reefs, but currently the oil companies aren’t contributing much to that. Unlike the hundreds of artificial reefs oil companies have placed off of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama, oil companies have placed fewer than 10 such artificial reefs in Florida waters.
Political issues relating to offshore drilling have kept decommissioned petroleum vessels from getting added as artificial reefs in Florida waters, U.S. Department of Interior officials have said.
No donations from the petroleum industry have been accepted by or offered to Florida since 1993. It was deemed inappropriate by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was dealing with permitting and the proposal for offshore oil and gas production, the Department of Interior has reported.
Lee County would appreciate a donated oil rig to use for a reef, which often saves an oil company money compared with disposal, Lee County Environmental Specialist Mike Campbell said.
When the oil companies’ efforts are combined, they have put the most artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico _ though it is mostly off other states, he said.
“It’s hard to beat being number one,” Campbell said.
He was skeptical of smaller reefs.
“I wouldn’t say that after you have a bunch of polluted water that throwing a bunch of bricks on it is going to make it any better,” Campbell said.
As for large artificial reefs, there may be increased risk in having so much marine life attracted to one place, Campbell said.
The world’s largest single man-made reef, the purposely sunk 888-foot USS Oriskany warship, is in Pensacola Bay. There, dozens of fish species and other marine life now are in harm’s way of the oil.
Blaisdell said he hesitated to file a claim because he didn’t want to take money from affected areas in the northern Gulf.
“I can withstand this. I can pay my electric bill,” said Blaisdell, adding that his Shining Spaces cleaning business remains his primary source of income. “But what really sent me over the edge was the BP chairman (Carl-Henric Svanberg) getting on the TV saying ‘we care about the small people.’”
He decided then that people need to go after the oil giant’s bottom line.
Just several weeks after the first Poseidon’s Gardens’ reef placement, the oil well rig exploded in mid-April and began pouring millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was leased by BP.
Blaisdell’s claim now is for the loss of about four customers per month as he had in the business’ second month in operation, which was April. Each placement within the memorial reef costs $1,800.
His skippers, divers, metal providers, mold makers, advertising outlets and others are suffering too, he said, because he doesn’t plan to spend money until he can ensure that loved ones’ remains will be in pristine waters.
Blaisdell said he was told he would get an answer to his claim in seven to 10 days. That was more than two weeks ago. This week, he said, he was told it would be another seven to 10 days.
“They just keep asking for more and more and more paperwork,” he said.