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Reserves Respond to Gulf Oil Spill
Published: Friday, May 28, 2010

National Estuarine Research Reserves on the Gulf Coast continue to work with state and federal agencies to prepare for the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Reserve activities include coordinating with other agencies, sampling water and sediments to establish baseline data against which to measure damage after landfall, and training for cleanup and handling of hazardous petroleum in the environment.

The first direct impacts of the oil spill began to appear in the form of tar balls at the Grand Bay Reserve in Mississippi this week.

Here is a summary of Reserve activities in the Gulf as of May 21.

Direct Impact of Oil:
  • Tar balls have been confirmed by Mississippi DEQ at the Grand Bay Reserve.
  • Although tar balls have been seen in the vicinity of the Weeks Bay Reserve, none have been noted at the Reserve itself.
  • Other NERRS sites have not reported direct impacts of the oil spill
Interagency Planning and Coordination:
  • Grand Bay Mississippi Reserve Manager David Ruple is coordinating with USFWS to draft a Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge Oil Spill Cleanup Policy and Procedure Plan. This plan will serve the reserve as well where the Reserve and Refuge boundaries overlap. 
  • USFWS inspected booms at the Grand Bay Reserve, and there is a daily aerial inspection by the Coast Guard of boom deployment. Repairs are being done by contractors.
  • Rookery Bay Reserve hosted a Coast Guard briefing for more than 70 environmental agency and NGO representatives. The briefing covered updates on the spill, ICC coordination, and planning for response within the region.
  • Rookery Bay Reserve Manager Gary Lytton assembled a multi-agency team with to design a Natural Resources Damage Assessment sampling plan for water and sediments. The Rookery Bay Reserve Research Coordinator Victoria Vazquez is coordinating NRDA sampling for the west coast region covering Hernando County to Collier County.
  • Apalachicola Reserve Manager Seth Blitch has coordinated the placement of an Air Quality Monitoring Station at the Reserve.  Sampling benthic infauna samples has begun in St. Joseph’s Bay and Apalachicola Bay.  
  • Grand Bay Reserve has completed a shoreline photo-monitoring survey of the Reserve’s shoreline, has collected resident fish using fish traps, and is preparing for emergent marsh and more fish sampling next week.
  • Five Apalachicola Bay Reserve staff are scheduled to take the 40-hour HAZWOPER training course in Tallahassee, which will also allow them to train volunteers and CAMA/DEP staff.
  • The majority of Apalachicola Bay, Weeks Bay and Grand Bay Reserve staff members have completed the 6-hour Level 3 BP safety training module.

The Estuarine Reserves Division is collecting names of reserve staff from throughout the system who might be able to help the Gulf reserves in order to match skills with specific needs when damage assessment and clean-up begin. Reserve staff who would like to volunteer should contact Marie Bundy or Whit Saumweber at ERD. Most volunteers will need training in handling hazardous materials.

Other people who would like to volunteer to help with clean-up should call the volunteer hotline at 866.448.5816. 

For complete information about NOAA’s involvement in responding to the Deep Horizon oil spill, visit the Web site of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration.

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