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Federal study looking at whether more oversight is needed of Cook Inlet marine travel

Posted: August 24, 2011 - 8:22pm

KENAI — A federally-mandated study is under way to gauge marine transportation use in Cook Inlet.

Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard, collectively the Cook Inlet Risk Assessment Management Team, are looking for people to serve on a 12-person advisory panel that will review potential risks in the inlet.

The panel will look at what can go wrong, how likely it is for something to go wrong, what the impacts of an accident or error would be, and how those risks can be reduced or mitigated, said CIRCAC’s Jerry Rombach, the advisory council’s director of public outreach.

A report will be submitted to the Coast Guard, which will review it and see what can be implemented.

Rombach said that some recommendations could be things the Coast Guard can fix internally, while other suggestions might require legislation or larger policy changes.

Initial funding for the $2 million undertaking is from DEC, which contributed $250,000.

The team is looking for representatives from Native organizations, subsistence users, other fishing interests, oil platform producers, the shipping industry and other groups with an interest in what happens in Cook Inlet.

Rombach said the advisory panel hopes to answer the question of whether Cook Inlet needs more navigation oversight. It will consider whether the oversight is needed to prevent ship from running ground, and what happens when there is an incident. Seldovia-based Nuka Research and Planning is leading the process.

A transportation analysis will drive much of the project. That analysis looks at who is using the inlet and what they’re carrying. But Rombach said the risks largely boil down to fuel. Cook Inlet cargo is likely to be oil and gas and even a cargo ship full of ping pong balls has fuel onboard that could be a problem if the ship was grounded and there is a fuel spill, Rombach said.

Two contractors Det Norske Veritas and Environmental Resource Management — West put together a comprehensive look at what vessels were in the Cook Inlet in 2010. Nuka will also use that data to project what Cook Inlet use will look like from 2011 to 2020, try to gauge the likelihood of an oil spill and look at how similar vessels perform around the world. A panel of experts will go over the information and come up with recommendations.

To apply for the panel go to www.cookinletrisk
assessment.com. A study is under way to gauge marine transportation use in Cook Inlet. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 26.

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