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Transcript: Operational Update on Ala. & Miss. Shoreline Cleanup Efforts

Kelly Mantell: Thank you, Sara. Good morning, everyone. My name is Kelly Mantell, and I'm at the Unified Area Command in New Orleans. I'd like to thank you for calling in this morning, and I'll be the host for today's call.

As a reminder, because we only have a half an hour for the call today, please only ask one question at a time, as this will insure everyone has an opportunity to ask a question. Also, we'd ask that you keep your questions related to shoreline cleanup. I'll be passing a phone number along to you at the end of the conference call for overall Deepwater Horizon updates.

Ruth Yunder, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator, will start us off today with an overview of the shoreline cleanup assessments, and will provide information on what the SCAT teams are doing. After she speaks, we'll open up the line to question and answers.

Also joining Ruth on the call this morning are Michael Slack and Scott Brown , on scene coordinators for Mississippi and Alabama, respectively, as well as Elliott Taylor, one of the SCAT team leaders. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to introduce Ruth Yunder.

Ruth Yunder: Hello, and thank you for participating in the call. I'm Ruth Yunder, one of the NOAA scientific support coordinators for the unified area command. As you know shoreline cleanup continues, as do the shoreline surveys that guide that cleanup. We've convened this call to provide an opportunity to ask questions about the shoreline survey process.

The approach being used for shoreline surveys that we refer to as shoreline cleanup assessment technique, or often just SCAT for short, is the same approach that's been used at most oil spill responses in the U.S. in the past 20 plus years. And it's essentially a systematic survey using standardized terminology to describe and document shoreline oiling, and then to communicate that information back to the unified command and cleanup operations staff.

The surveys are conducted by teams that – the SCAT teams are comprised of members reflecting the composition of the unified command, there's a federal representative in most cases on most of the teams, that's a NOAA representative on behalf of the U.S. Coast Guard. State representative from the state agency in charge of oil spill response, a representative from the responsible party, in this case, BP. And then in some cases for some shorelines, there will be a land owner or land manager, for example, National Parks Service or Park Lands.

In addition to surveying the shorelines for oil, the SCAT teams developed consensus cleanup recommendations to help minimize damage from the oil, and enhance recovery of natural, cultural and historic resources, as well as  recreational and economic uses. And also, the teams insure their recommendations comply with any laws, such as National Historic Preservation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, for example.

And the teams also consider the fact that cleanup itself can cause injury, in addition to the oil. So our objective is to do no more harm than good, and to way of tradeoff of removing more oil, especially as we get to more lower levels and more residual quantities of oil against the impacts that might occur from more aggressive and invasive techniques that might be required to do so. So essentially, a net environmental benefit type of assessment.

We're currently in stage three of shoreline treatment, or detailed cleanup stage – we considered stage two, initial cleanup of bulk oil until a source was secured. And we're moving toward endpoint criteria or target criteria for various shoreline types, and toward transitioning to a maintenance and monitoring phase. And, of course, the cleanup endpoints or targets vary depending on shoreline type and use. For example, high amenity or public use speeches will have a – we desire more rapid return to pre-spill condition, or no visible oil, than perhaps a sensitive or protected areas such as park lands where we may need to weigh cleanup activities against wildlife use, such as nesting birds or sea turtle nesting activity.

And when we move into the maintenance and monitoring phase, we'll still be conducting shoreline surveys, and cleanup crews will be available to be deployed for additional cleanup if conditions change. So this kind of interim no further treatment target toward maintenance monitoring doesn’t mean that anybody's leaving, or that you know our work is far from done. We'll still be monitoring and conducting additional activity as is warranted.

And keeping in mind that any oil that does remain that we determine can't effectively be removed without causing too much damage will still be taken into account with the natural resource damage assessment work that state and federal agencies will be conducting, and also as they develop their restoration plans.

And so with that, I think we're ready to open up the call to any questions.

Operator: At this time, if you have an audio question, please press star one on your telephone keypad. We'll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster.

Your first question comes from the line of Harland Kergan from "Mississippi Press".

Harland Kergan: I'd like I guess two phases here on this – an assessment of what cleanup remains to be done in Mississippi, and the same for Alabama.

Kelly Mantell: And perhaps I'll – the – one of the team leaders, Elliott Taylor, maybe I'll pass that on to Elliott since he's been working with the details of the shorelines.

Elliott Taylor: All right. This is Elliott Taylor, SCAT technical advisor. And the work that remains to be done primarily in Mississippi is on the outer islands, on the gulf islands and the coast. Work is ongoing there, that's been a logistically challenging area, but that would be one of the areas where a focus remains. There are some very localized spots along the mainland between Hancock and Harrison Counties, but those are very generally small areas.

And then over in Alabama, the remaining work really is on the public beaches and bon secure, really it's pretty much the Baldwin County area that remains to be cleaned to a further level of treatment, beyond the bulk oil and the work that's been done so far. Along those lines you know work is ongoing as we speak in all of these areas, so – but those are – those would be the [inaudible] areas right now.

Operator: Once again, to ask a question, please press star one on your telephone keypad. There are no questions at this time.

Kelly Mantell: OK, well this is Kelly Mantell again. I'd like to thank everyone for calling in this morning. And as a reminder to you, you can find the latest facts, photos and videos about SCAT and the Deepwater Horizon response at our Web site, www.restorethegulf.gov, or by calling the Unified Area Command Joint Information Center at 713-323-1670. And we thank you very much for your time, and wish you a pleasant day.

Operator: This concludes today's conference call, you may now disconnect.

END