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October 10, 2006

Contact: Daniel Parry
(301) 713-3066


Pearl Harbor Survey Designed to Assess Potential Threats to Ecology

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration and the U.S. Navy have partnered to produce one of the first surveys of potential threats to coastal shorelines from a hazardous material spill or leak. The purpose of the survey is to document shoreline types and conditions in advance of a spill incident, enabling officials to develop spill response plans for at high risk for such incidents.

NOAA and the Navy surveyed the shorelines of Pearl Harbor, focusing on shoreline types, natural resources, and historic structures most at risk for a hazardous spill. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is one of the most likely locations for oil spills in Oahu. In addition to a large naval fleet, bulk fuel storage, pipelines, and a commercial power plant, the harbor is at particular risk of oil releases from sunken vessels including the battleship U.S.S. Arizona, which still holds several million gallons of fuel oil.

"This proactive survey is among the first to be conducted anywhere in the country and may serve as a prototype for other regions," said Ruth Yender, scientific support coordinator for NOAA's Northwest and Oceania regional response districts. "The survey establishes baseline conditions to aid in developing response strategies for shorelines at risk in the event of a release of oil or other hazardous materials."

The survey data will be processed into a user-friendly format for use by the Navy and other responders in Honolulu. The information also will assist NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration in efforts to help the Navy develop response plans and implement them in the event of a spill in Pearl Harbor.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 oil and chemical spills occur annually in water and on land throughout the United States. These spills come from ships, pipelines and hazardous waste sites. NOAA serves as the lead federal trustee for coastal and marine resources including commercial and recreational fisheries, endangered and threatened marine mammals, coastal wetlands, coral reefs and other coastal habitats and the protected resources of the national marine sanctuaries and national estuarine research reserves.

"Developing new approaches to how one manages risk is an important part of NOAA's responsibilities as a federal trustee," said Capt. Ken Barton, acting director of the Office of Response and Restoration. "Being prepared to respond to threats to coastal resources is a critical part of the NOAA mission. Development of this prototype survey is a significant step in doing so."

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration provides scientific expertise for successful incident response and restoration, helping to reduce harm to people, the environment and the economy. NOAA Ocean Service scientists are experts in oceanography, biology, economics, ocean modeling, chemistry and geology. Regional NOAA scientific support coordinators organize NOAA resources in support of federal and state response efforts, and work with scientists from other public agencies, academia, and the private sector to support operations when an oil or chemical spill occurs.

In 2007 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.


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