The Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) works to prevent and mitigate harm to coastal resources. It is the primary NOAA office that responds to oil spills and hazardous material releases. OR&R also works with federal, state, and tribal natural resource trustees to restore damaged coastal resources.
The Office of Response and Restoration leveraged its scientific expertise in fiscal year 2011 by conducting trainings for federal, state, and local responders and for academia and industry. This training forms a foundation layer for effective spill management and restoration of impacted environments. Training topics included:
To ensure broad participation and preparation, OR&R led trainings throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska, with special emphasis in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to domestic trainings, two international training events were conducted with external funding for the Panama Canal Commission and International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. Training provides NOAA a unique opportunity to create appreciation for the importance of science-based decisions, showcase NOAA's important roles in response, build trust, and create the partnerships that become critical during a response incident.
The M/V Athos oil spill occurred November 26, 2004, when the 750-foot tanker M/V Athos I struck a submerged pipe in the Delaware River near Philadelphia. The resulting breach in the ship's hull spilled approximately 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the river.
In November 2010, federal and state agencies received $27.5 million to restore conditions for fish, birds, sensitive habitats, wildlife, and recreational use of the Delaware River affected in 2004 by an oil spill from the vessel Athos I. NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware collectively received the funds from the U.S. Coast Guard Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for nine restoration projects. These projects will benefit coastal communities and economies by improving habitat, providing green jobs during construction, and creating new opportunities to enjoy the river and its wildlife.
On Nov. 26, 2004, the Athos I, struck three submerged objects, including a large anchor while preparing to dock in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The anchor punctured the hull, spilling nearly 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River, which resulted in impacts to more than 280 miles of shoreline, affecting habitats, aquatic organisms, birds, and other wildlife, as well as hindering recreational use of the river.
Volunteers help plant a salt marsh in Louisiana.
Under an unprecedented agreement, BP agreed to provide $1 billion toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the largest agreement of its kind ever reached. These projects will begin to address impacts to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.
“Early restoration” is restoration that can be implemented prior to the completion of the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process to achieve restoration faster. So, this agreement can be seen as BP’s down payment toward the yet-to-be determined full cost of the damage to the Gulf Coast. The agreement does not affect the ultimate liability from the spill for BP (and the other responsible parties) but provides an opportunity to help restoration get started sooner. This money will put people to work restoring the Gulf without having to wait for the results of the NRDA and pending litigation.
Restoration also will address the lost use of natural resources by the people living, working, and visiting the area. Project selection will follow a transparent process, overseen by the trustees. Types of restoration that could be funded include rebuilding of coastal marshes, replenishment of damaged beaches, conservation of sensitive areas for ocean habitat for impacted wildlife, and restoration of barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms.
BP will continue to fund the NRDA and, together with the other responsible parties, ultimately will compensate the public for all the impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Fifth International Marine Debris Conference took place in March in Honolulu, Hawaii. NOAA and the United Nations Environment Programme were co-organizers of the conference, which brought together 440 participants representing 38 countries to discuss the issue of marine debris. Attendees participated in workshops and field trips, heard technical and policy sessions over four days, and saw over 30 posters. They enjoyed discussions with keynote speakers, plenary sessions, receptions, exhibits of marine debris art from around the globe, musical entertainment, and a movie night with 11 short films on marine debris created by children, researchers, advocates, and educators.
Keynote speakers included Jean-Michel Cousteau, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Representative Sam Farr (D-CA), and ocean rower Roz Savage. Conference participants refined and endorsed by acclamation the Honolulu Commitment, which outlines 12 actions to reduce marine debris. Participants and a group of reporters also worked to revise the Honolulu Strategy, a global framework to prevent and manage marine debris, which will be published in the future.
Since launching in 2008, the Fishing for Energy partnership has reeled in over 1.5 million pounds of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen. Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. The program was established to reduce the financial burden on commercial fishermen when disposing of retired, derelict, or unusable fishing gear and thereby reduce the amount of gear that may inadvertently end up in U.S. coastal waters. The partnership also includes a grant program that directly supports efforts to remove derelict fishing gear from U.S. coastal waters and continues to expand and partner with new ports to promote old or derelict fishing gear collection through community education and outreach. Recipients of small grants include Stellwagen Alive!, Provincetown Harbormaster, Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Suffolk County, and the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation.
The majority of Fishing for Energy ports are in the Northeast, with 24 ports participating from Virginia to Maine. In 2011, ports were added in New Jersey (Belford) and Florida (Miami-Dade County, and abandoned gear removal from the waters of Everglades City with recycling in Ft. Myers). These ports participated only through one-day recycling events with potentially more to be held in the future.