New plan for using dispersants in Alaska is in effect

The Alaska Regional Response Team, or ARRT, established a new plan earlier this year for how oil spill dispersants, an alternative oil spill response option, would be used during an oil spill. The ARRT is a group of federal and state agencies that share responsibilities for managing oil and chemical spill responses in Alaska. Mechanical response, such as booms and skimmers that actually remove oil from the water, is the priority response option by state and federal law. The new plan was effective January 27, 2016, although parts of the plan will not go into effect until 2018. Details of new plan The new plan describes two different processes for dispersant use. Dispersants will be “preauthorized” in certain areas, and all other areas are “undesignated.” A new “preauthorization area” will go into effect in 2018. This area extends from 24 nautical miles offshore out to 200 nautical miles offshore (approximately 27.6 to 230 miles), south of Alaska’s mainland through the Aleutian chain. The ARRT’s rationale is that preauthorizing, or deciding before an oil spill occurs where chemical dispersants are allowed, could speed up response time. In the preauthorized area, dispersants are considered to be approved by government agencies before an oil spill happens. Therefore, the U.S. Coast Guard, as federal on scene coordinator, can decide to apply dispersants to a crude oil spill. Areas farther than 200 nautical miles from shore are international waters, and are not part of this plan. … Continue reading

Council and partners plan test of spill surrogate for response training

By Jeremy Robida Council Project Manager A group of oil spill preparedness planners in Prince William Sound are working together to develop an improved method of training for oil spills. The council has been working for many years to find a suitable oil “surrogate” for spill response training. Surrogates are floating substances such as wood chips, peat moss, or other materials that would mimic an oil slick and have similar interactions with currents, tides, and winds, without harming the environment. A surrogate would provide a target for responders during training and exercises; something which physically interacts with boom and equipment and acts as a visual aid to help responders increase proficiency with gear and tactics. Federal policies do not provide guidance for surrogates. Instead, local solutions are encouraged which can be tailored to fit each region’s particular environmental concerns. … Continue reading

Jane Eisemann – Kodiak volunteer passionate about working for the council

Jane Eisemann, volunteer on the council’s Information and Education Committee, first came to Alaska in 1976 to visit her brother in Kodiak. She immediately fell in love with the state. “It was a beautiful place,” Eisemann said of her first impression. “My brother lived off the grid, I liked that lifestyle.” Eisemann returned to California with her mother, but before she left, she secured a job at a local pizza parlor, promising to return for good in two months. The island of Kodiak has now been her home for the last 38 years. Eisemann began commercial fishing in 1978 for crab, herring, and salmon. That year, she also got a winter job in the small community of Chiniak as a teacher’s assistant. With encouragement from the teacher, Eisemann decided to go back to school for a teaching degree while she continued to fish during the summers. Before she graduated, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and she ended up working on the cleanup effort. She noted it was a time of upheaval in the community. “The oil spill just changed everybody’s life,” she said. … Continue reading

UPDATED JULY 1: Budget cuts threaten spill response equipment in remote Alaska communities

Update: GOOD NEWS! We received word from Lt Nunez with Alaska’s District 17 of the Coast Guard that the Coast Guard headquarters has approved funds to keep the remote spill response equipment caches in Alaska through their next fiscal year (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016). Your letters of support helped! He specifically mentioned that the public’s letters of support for the caches really helped convince headquarters that Alaska has different needs than the rest of the country. Original post: In an effort to reduce spending, the U.S. Coast Guard is considering decommissioning caches of oil spill response equipment stationed around Alaska. The caches will be funded through the next fiscal year, however, long-term funding is not secure. The Coast Guard has invited the public to share their thoughts. … Continue reading