KODIAK — State and federal officials are seeking input from Kodiak residents on where to avoid the use of chemical dispersants off the coast of Alaska in the event of an oil spill.
Officials will hold a meeting Tuesday in Kodiak to allow members of the community to comment on the matter, The Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.
Chemical dispersants, which are opposed by environmental groups, break oil into small droplets that spread throughout the water column, making it more available to natural degradation by oil-eating microbes.
While dispersants can keep oil from reaching shorelines, they can also cause harm to marine life. The preferred method of cleanup is mechanical, usually using skimmers to lift oil from the water.
The state signed an agreement with four federal entities involved in oil response in January that established preauthorization areas that would allow a federal on-scene coordinator to authorize mobilization of dispersant. The preauthorized zones include waters in Kodiak.
The designation of an avoidance area does not mean that dispersants will not be used in that area, but rather that the response coordinator would be required to first gain approval from state or federal entities.
There are many reasons to designate an avoidance area, including the presence of endangered species or potential economic damage, said Mark Janes, senior project manager for Nuka Research and Planning Group. Nuka was hired to help with the public input process.
Tuesday’s meeting will include remarks from Coast Guard Cmdr. Stacey Mersel, the federal on-scene coordinator, and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hobbie.
The public comment period will be open through Jan. 9.