Plan for applying dispersants to crude oil spills in Alaska waters updated

Stricter rules applicable in certain areas

This map from the ARRT (larger image at the link) shows the “preauthorized area” between 24 and 200 nautical miles from shore (within the green boundaries). Within the preauthorized areas, some “avoidance areas” have been reclassified (striped areas) and will require the case-by-case approval.

The Alaska Regional Response Team, or ARRT, recently updated a list of areas that would receive extra scrutiny before dispersants are applied to a crude oil spill. The update completes the planned changes to the Dispersant Use Plan for Alaska. The plan is a guide for spill responders, and it spells out how oil spill dispersants would be used during a crude oil spill. The previous dispersant use plan had not been updated since 1989.

The first changes went into effect in 2016. Two different processes for deciding whether to use dispersants, depending on the location of the spill, were developed at that time. The application of dispersants is now considered “preauthorized” except for “avoidance” areas. In an avoidance area, a decision to use dispersants must undergo more extensive scrutiny on a case-by-case basis.

By pre-authorizing use of dispersants in certain areas, the ARRT can speed up the decision-making time on whether or not to use dispersants. Consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services is still required before dispersants would be used in a preauthorization area. For avoidance areas, additional consultation and a consensus between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is required prior to use.

There is a short window of time after a spill when dispersants should be applied. Dispersants work best on freshly spilled oil.

Read morePlan for applying dispersants to crude oil spills in Alaska waters updated

Smithsonian partners with council to search for marine invasive species

Citizen scientists, the Prince William Sound College, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the council partner for invasive species event in Prince William Sound

Linda McCann
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz. Photo by Nelli Vanderburg.
An opalescent nudibranch is a native species common in Prince William Sound. This one was found during the September bioblitz.

A crew of marine biologists ventured to Prince William Sound this September for the third Smithsonian-led “bioblitz” in Alaska, this time in Valdez. During a bioblitz, volunteer citizen scientists team up with professional scientists to search for invasive marine invertebrates. This year, the Smithsonian partnered with the council and Prince William Sound College for a week of scientific sampling.

Three months before the bioblitz, council staff placed “settlement plates,” sheets of sanded PVC that the invertebrates attach to over time. During the bioblitz, volunteers and staff collected the plates, towed plankton nets, set crab traps, and went scuba diving, to look for various nonnative species.

The study helped establish critical baseline data for future research, invasive species management, and conservation initiatives. Fortunately, no new non-native species were found during the bioblitz or the scientific sampling.

Read moreSmithsonian partners with council to search for marine invasive species

Science Night 2016

2016-science-night-live-flier-jpgThe council held our annual Science Night on Thursday, December 8. Presentations by scientists conducting research into areas of council interest are highlighted. This post has been updated with links to presentations. See below.

“Lingering Oil in Prince William Sound: What we know, past and present”
Presenter: Mandy Lindeberg, NOAA Auke Bay Laboratories

“Mom Knows Best: Family Specific Patterns Among Killer Whales in Prince William Sound”
Presenter: Dan Olsen, North Gulf Oceanic Society

“Regional Weather Forecast Modeling”
Presenter: Peter Olsson, Alaska Experimental Forecast Facility

“Are you a ShoreZone user? A brief introduction to the Alaska ShoreZone Program”
Presenter: Mandy Lindeberg, Auke Bay Laboratories

“Zooplankton: Big Talk about Tiny Critters”
Presenter: Caitlin McKinstry, Prince William Sound Science Center

Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz in Valdez

The council is collaborating with the Prince William Sound College and the Smithsonian for a two-day Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz on September 9 and 10 in Valdez. Learn about invasive species that threaten Prince William Sound and look for them in Valdez Harbor.

Your help with this bioblitz will help establish critical baseline data for future research, invasive species management, and conservation initiatives.

Dates:
Pre-training workshop on Friday, September 9.
Expedition to look for invasive species in Valdez harbor.

More details at the event website: Marine Invasive Species Bioblitz in Valdez

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