Results from cooperative ecological risk assessments for oil spill response planning in Galveston Bay, Texas and the San Francisco Bay area, California
This paper summarizes the results of two cooperative ecological risk assessments (ERAs) that examined the potential environmental consequences of oil spill scenarios, two in the vicinity of San Francisco Bay, California and one in Galveston Bay, Texas. The goal of the evaluation was to identify the optimum mix of response options for reducing injury to the environment. For these specific scenarios, the participants concluded that only dispersant use, assuming high effectiveness, had the potential to significantly reduce environmental impact when compared to natural recovery. While water-column effects increased with dispersant use, they were not long term and judged to be of less ecological significance than shoreline or water-surface impacts. Aside from dispersant use, only shoreline cleanup was effective in clearly mitigating impacts, and obviously would not prevent the immediate consequences of the spills. The optimum response was viewed as involving some combination of the various response options. There were some issues with data adequacy in both locations, but both groups felt the information was adequate for the analysis. In both ERAs, participants emphasized that the conclusions were scenario specific, and that additional analyses would be necessary before any significant generalizations could be made.