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IMT Continues Preparations For Potential Oil Spill Landfall

Gulf Islands National Seashore

National Park News

Preparations continue for a possible landfall by the oil spill from the sunken drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Efforts to cut off the discharge of oil at the wellhead continue to fail. That discharge is still estimated at a thousand barrels a day. The unified command reports that the best hope now is to slow the flow through the wellhead, but it probably won’t be cut off until the relief wells are completed in roughly three months. An attempt will also be made to place domes over the discharge points in an effort to capture much of the discharge, but that attempt won't be made for roughly three weeks. The latest trajectory map predicts that northerly winds through this evening will keep the oil plume off shore. After that, persistent south-southeast winds through at least the weekend are expected to push the plume towards the coast. Best guess at this time is that the Mississippi delta may be affected as early as Friday, with the plume continuing northward towards Gulf Island over the weekend. Meanwhile, here’s an update on the five objectives that the IMT has established for this incident:

Objective 1: Position ourselves to receive the information necessary to make appropriate tactical decisions regarding protection measures, and Objective 2: Position ourselves to have a seat at the Unified Command table when planning coastal protection tactics and priorities.

  • IMT liaison Rick Clark and resource advisor Chris Reel continue to provide input directly into the planning process at the unified command in Houma concerning NPS protection priorities.
  • IMT liaisons have been established at the British Petroleum field command posts/staging areas in Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Pensacola. The installation of booms to protect select sensitive areas within both districts is planned to begin Wednesday under the Gulf Islands IMT’s guidance.
  • USCG Sector Mobile is activating a unified command IMT today, and the Gulf Islands team’s IC will be in Mobile to participate.
  • A resource order for a marine biologist as a second resource advisor in Houma is pending.
  • A Type I finance section chief has been ordered.

Objective 3: Update and improve our preplanning documents that prioritize environmentally sensitive areas.
  • The team has completed this objective. Information has been incorporated into incident action plans.

Objective 4:  Conduct a current conditions resource assessment as a baseline (both districts).
  • Ground surveys continue in both districts. They should be completed by tomorrow.
  • Grass bed and tissue sample assessments are in the planning stages.
  • An assessment of the threats to cultural resource is pending.

Objective 5:  Determine the potential need and means for implementing measures, as necessary, independent of the unified command.
  • The team is continuing to assess how NPS priorities compete against overall unified command priorities.
The IMT will focus much of its efforts on Objective 5 today in order to determine whether there is an immediate need for a large logistical operation under the park IMT in order to carry out protective actions. This may drive the need to order a NPS Type II IMT. An assessment is also being made of the need for a NPS Type II IMT to be in place at the time of expected landfall to deal with cleanup and damage assessments.


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