NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division worked with NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, NOAA’s Office of the General Counsel Natural Resources Section and multiple trustee agencies to produce the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The 1,400+ page report was the basis for the record settlement of $8.8 billion for the restoration of injured natural resources between the natural resource trustees and BP.
NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division, NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center and NOAA’s Office of the General Counsel Natural Resources Section secured over $67 million to restore the environment following three events. By working with partners agencies from the State of Michigan, over $60 million was generated for restoration following the 2010 Enbridge pipeline failure. The spill resulted in approximately 843,000 gallons of a heavy form of crude oil known as “tar sands oil” into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Restoration projects include restoring and protecting hundreds of acres of wetlands and upland habitat, replacing culverts to enhance river flow, and increasing recreational opportunities for the public along the Kalamazoo River.
In Washington State a settlement worth approximately $5 million continued a history of restoring Commencement Bay, which was impacted by the pollution from industrial activity. In total, NOAA and partners have generated over $70 million dollars over the last 20 years to hold polluters accountable and reestablish the bay.
In Maine, an $880,000 settlement was reached for an oil spill at the Gulf-Chevron marine oil terminal. The settlement will support restoration projects for natural resources, including aquatic habitats and areas of recreational use.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program completed the Florida Incident Waterway Debris Response Guide in 2016 to improve preparedness for response to and recovery from events like severe storms, floods, tsunamis, or maritime disasters that can result in a large influx of marine debris. This guide is the second completed in an ongoing effort by the NOAA Marine Debris Program to collaborate with local, state, and federal entities in coastal states in developing state-specific guidance documents for easy reference in the case of a severe marine debris event. The Florida Guide serves as a comprehensive reference for incident waterway debris response. It contains an outline of existing response structures and captures all relevant responsibilities and existing procedures in Florida. The guide is accompanied by a Field Reference Guide with pertinent quick reference information for in the field emergency response operations.
The US Coast Guard (USCG) conducted an assessment dive of the sunken wreck of Tank Barge Argo, lost in 1937 in Lake Erie, when an active chemical plume and odors were noted above the tank barge. The benzene cargo was characterized and ultimately removed. NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division (ERD), with state and federal partners, managed the development of environmental monitoring, water sampling, sediment sampling, and waste disposal plans for the Argo response.
Two tug boats collided on the Mississippi River near Columbus, Kentucky, spilling an estimated 120,500 gallons of oil. The oil was heavier than water and was at the bottom of a murky, flowing river; posing unique challenges. ERD provided river flow forecasts, chemistry of the spilled oil, a submerged oil assessment, assistance with a side scan sonar, and assistance with the selection of unique response technologies, such as environmental clamshell dredging.
ERD supported the USCG response to an oil spill in the Green Canyon oil reserve area in the Gulf of Mexico, providing oil spill trajectory analysis and information on natural resources potentially at risk from the oil, including species and habitats in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center (DRC) - housed in the Office of Response and Restoration - takes a leadership role in building NOAA’s preparedness and ability to respond to and mitigate environmental impacts from natural and human-caused disasters such as hurricanes and major oils spills. As part of the National Ocean Service Roadmap resilience and response strategies, an online NOAA Response Asset Directory (NRAD) was developed. The NRAD is an all-hazards resource directory that includes searchable and spatial information on physical resources, as well as NOAA services which could be used or in need of protection during response and recovery from disasters.
The pilot project has been completed for six states at high risk for hurricane threats - Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Initial responses highlight the application as a very powerful planning, response, and incident recovery tool, and the expectation is that the directory will expand nationally over the next year. With the implementation of the NRAD, NOAA will be better positioned to respond to future disasters efficiently through improved shared knowledge and access to available resources for all NOAA staff.