In mid-2016, the NOAA Disaster Response Center (DRC), in coordination with the National Weather Service and the Office for Coastal Management, developed the Science of Coastal Natural Hazards course. This is the third course in the Office of Response and Restoration’s (OR&R) “Science of” suite, which also includes Science of Oil Spills and Science of Chemical Releases. The course provides training on region-specific risks, physical processes, and NOAA products and services related to coastal natural hazards, in an effort to improve planning and decision making. The pilot course included 36 participants from across NOAA and other federal, state, and local partners. The DRC offered the course for the second time in October-November 2017.
In 2017, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) reached multiple agreements that will require companies across the country to restore natural resources that were damaged following releases of industrial pollution. The settlements and agreements include an agreement in principle worth $8.2 million to restore habitats on the St. Louis River in Minnesota; a large marsh restoration project to address environmental injuries caused by the Koppers hazardous site in South Carolina; improvement of a fish passage in the Raritan River, NJ, watershed associated with the American Cyanamid Superfund site; restoration of coral reef habitat injured by the 2009 grounding of a tank vessel in Port Stewart, PR; a large-scale final restoration plan for Oregon’s Portland Harbor region that will benefit a suite of fish and wildlife potentially injured by industrial contamination; and proposed restoration activities in Alabama’s Upper Mobile-Tensaw River Delta to compensate for hazardous substances released from the Ciba Geigy-McIntosh Plant.
From hazards and incident response recommendations to public safety guidelines and chemical property information, the new CAMEO® Chemicals mobile app lets emergency responders and planners learn more about thousands of hazardous chemicals. Importantly, the app allows users to access this critical information without the internet—a major benefit for responders working in emergency situations where telecommunications may be compromised. This is the first mobile app developed by the Office of Response and Restoration’s (OR&R) Emergency Response Division. The app represents NOAA’s commitment to keeping communities safe by providing first responders with ready access to the information they need to respond to chemical emergencies and manage these risks in their communities. Community response to the app has been very favorable, with more than 9,000 downloads in the first four months and users in more than 100 countries. The app is an example of how government can leverage science and technology to protect people and the environment. CAMEO Chemicals is part of the CAMEO software suite, which NOAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been jointly developing for more than 30 years.
The International Oil Spill Conference is the primary technical conference and tradeshow for professionals in the spill response community, bringing together more than 1,500 responders from the private sector, government, and nongovernmental organizations to share lessons learned from actual spill responses and worldwide research. This year’s conference, held in Long Beach, CA, in May 2017, was the culmination of several years of planning efforts by the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) as a member of the Permanent Conference Committee. OR&R contributed to the opening and closing plenary sessions, provided 10 session chairs and 10 short-course instructors, and presented seven papers and 15 posters. In the exhibit hall, the University of New Hampshire Coastal Response Research Center joined OR&R at a NOAA booth that showcased key applications, such as the latest version of the GNOME suite, the new CAMEO® Chemicals mobile app, and ERMA ®. OR&R also helped produce and staff an Interagency Technology Demonstration at the conference, which focused on advancements in spill response technology since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Every day, commercial fishermen deploy hundreds of fishing pots in ocean and coastal waters, and, far too often, the pots are lost due to storms, tangled lines, and disturbances from passing vessels. The NOAA Marine Debris Program funded a study to assess the impacts of lost and abandoned crab pots on wildlife and the economy in Chesapeake Bay. The study found that an estimated 145,000 derelict crab pots reside in the bay, that the pots kill 3.3 million unharvested blue crabs each year, and that they affect more than 40 fish species that are caught unintentionally (bycatch). For the years 2008-2014, the study found that removing derelict pots in active fishing areas increased the blue crab harvest by 23.8 percent (38 million pounds), which translated into $33.5 million during the six-year study period. The research culminated in a guiding framework for derelict fishing gear assessments that can be applied to other fisheries and/or regions interested in conducting similar studies. The diverse team of researchers included CSS-Dynamac, Inc., Versar, Inc., the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Global Science & Technology, Inc.