On the evening of Saturday, April 24th, the park activated a Type 3 incident management team to deal with potential impacts from the oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico that followed the recent sinking of the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. The team is working closely with Southeast Region and WASO on the NPS response. The following actions had been completed as of yesterday morning:
The IMT has an agency liaison in place at the Unified Command Center in Houma. That liaison is Rick Clark, chief of the park’s Division of Science and Resource Management.
An environmental protection specialist from IMRO, Chris Reels, has been ordered as a resource advisor. Reels has extensive experience in the private sector in the area of oil spill response. He has arrived at the Unified Command Center ICP and will assist the park team with planning.
Contact has been established with key USCG officials in Mobile who will coordinate spill response actions when/if oil threatens the northern Gulf coast. All areas of the park are located within this sector. Experienced park staff have been identified who will join the interagency planning team when activated.
Contacts have been established with key personnel within the US Fish & Wildlife Service positioned in Houma and near Mobile.
Park science and resource management staff have begun work on preparing updated response planning documents.
A plan has been prepared for conducting a baseline resource assessment that should be completed by later today.
As of yesterday, the oil plume was several hundred square miles in size and approximately 60 miles from park waters. Projections showing the possible spread of the oil slick 72 hours out vary significantly from model run to model run, but no landfall is expected before late in the week. The wellhead continues to discharge an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The worst case scenario would be a full blowout of the wellhead, which could result in discharge amounts that would pale in comparison to these numbers. Efforts to secure the wellhead via ROV’s continue to fail; Plan B is the establishment of a relief well, but that is expected to take an estimated 90 days. Incident managers expect to employ a new technology designed to capture large quantities of leaking oil closer to the discharge point, but the technique has never before been attempted in deep water. USCG Sector Mobile has staged large quantities of spill response materials and identified contractor zones should oil threaten the north central Gulf coast.