Oil Spill Containment Exercise

Ken Baltz of the Fisheries Oceanography Team participated in a multi-agency exercise dealing with a simulated oil spill within the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. The oil spill drill was held August 9-10 in San Francisco Bay, where field crews and national Incident Command System personnel tested their skills in containing a 356,000 gallon spill before it wreaked havoc on the environment.

The scenario of the drill involved a cargo ship colliding with an oil tanker within the Shipping lanes off the Golden Gate entrance. The goal of the crews was to minimize the extent of the spill. Dubbed Safe Seas 2006, the oil disaster drill was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Coast Guard. More than a dozen federal, state and local agencies participated in the drill. Over 40 vessels got underway during the drill along with aircraft such as Coast Guard helicopters and a C-130 Air Force Cargo plane, which was used for oil dispersant application. Oil booms were spread out at multiple locations to contain the oil and prevent it from entering environmentally sensitive areas. Thousands of biodegradable drift cards were deployed to simulate the movement of surface oil and to help ground-truth the oil spill computer models and the real-time oceanographic models used during the drill. One of the noteworthy results of the Safe Seas exercise was a multibeam side scan sonar survey of Half Moon Bay that was conducted during the exercise. The results of that survey will be used to update the bathymetric datum for Half Moon Bay. Bathymetric datum for Half Moon Bay previous to the exercise consisted of lead line readings from over 50 years ago.

While on Reserve duty for the Coast Guard’s Sector San Francisco’s Response Department, Ken Baltz acted as the chief liaison between the multiple environmental stakeholders and the Coast Guard controlled Operations Branch of the Incident Command Post. A handful of VIPs witnessed the exercise from the deployed vessels and the Incident Command Post in San Francisco. VIPs included State of California and local politicians, the Administrator of NOAA and Coast Guard leadership for California waters. (September 5, 2006)

Media Links for Safe Seas 2006: