The owners of the five vessels involved in a 700,000-gallon oil spill in Galveston Bay have agreed to pay for a study of the impact on the area's rich fishing grounds and sensitive marshes.

The barge and ship owners agreed last week to pay the government more than $156,000 to assess damages the oil may have caused, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The funds will be used by NOAA, the Interior Department and the Texas Water Commission to study the effects of July's spill on wildlife and wetlands, said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for NOAA.

The study will focus in part on determining what toxic effects the oil may have had on young shrimp. Researchers also will develop a plan to restore damaged marshes and conduct tests to identify the spilled oil through a chemical "fingerprinting process." Gorman said the study would give the government an assessment of how much it would cost to restore the area.

The heavy fuel oil was spilled July 28, when the Greek tanker Shinoussa collided with two of three barges under tow by the Chandy N in the Houston Ship Channel. The barges, owned by Apex Towing Co. of St. Louis, spilled 700,000 gallons of the jet fuel into the bay.