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Office of Response and Restoration

NOAA Deepwater Horizon Incident Site

Emergency Response Division

Assessment and Restoration Division

Another Record-breaking Year for Spill Response

Office of Response and Restoration

Responding to the Deepwater BP Spill

Dave Wesley in overflight

NOAA observer Dave Wesley records data during an overflight in the Gulf of Mexico. Visual observations made by Dave and his colleagues, in the form of maps and verbal briefings, are being passed along to oil spill modelers at NOAA's campus in Seattle. The Seattle modelers use these observations, along with oceanographic data on tides and currents, to predict the trajectory of the oil slick.

As the nation's leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon incident from the start, providing coordinated scientific services to federal, state, and local organizations. At the center of these efforts has been the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), NOAA’s primary office charged with responding to oil spills, hazardous material releases, and marine debris.

Thousands of incidents occur each year in which oil or chemicals are released into the environment as a result of accidents or natural disasters. While these spills are not of the magnitude of the Deepwater BP spill, any spill into our coastal waters can harm people and the environment and cause substantial disruption of marine transportation and potential widespread economic impacts. When a spill occurs, OR&R’s Emergency Response Division (ERD) provides the scientific expertise to support incident response and initiates natural resource damage assessment.

trajectory map

The 24-hour trajectory forecast for the Deepwater BP spill prepared by OR&R on May 13 at 8:00pm. Visit the OR&R Web site to access full versions of the most current forecast maps.

OR&R experts have been providing scientific support to the U.S. Coast Guard and Unified Command from the start of the Deepwater BP spill. Staff from ERD are working to predict where the oil is going and what impacts it might have, identifying resources at risk, predicting chemical changes from the oil, and recommending clean-up methods.

Staff from OR&R’s Assessment and Restoration Division (ARD) are part of NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program—a cross-NOAA program comprised of scientists, economists, attorneys, and restoration experts. These experts work in teams to protect and restore coastal resources threatened by waste sites, oil and chemical spills, and ship groundings. 

ARD staff are on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon incident, working in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, and federal and state co-trustees. They are planning for assessment of injuries to natural resources, implementing sampling plans to start assessing damages, and working to ensure that selected remedies are protective of natural resources.

In 2009, OR&R responded to more than 200 incidents. So far, 2010 has been a busy year. Regardless of whether the incident is large or small, federal, state, and local agencies and governments across the country rely on NOAA support to mitigate harm, provide critical information for allocation of response assets, restore adverse effects on natural resources, aid planning and response decision making, and document damages.