1
Introduction

In 1989, the T/V Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound and spilled approximately 11 million gallons of oil. As one of numerous reactions to the spill, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) and within the legislation mandated the creation of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI). OSRI was established to “conduct research and carry out educational and demonstration projects designed to (Title V, Section 5001, Oil Pollution Act of 1990):

  • identify and develop the best available techniques, equipment, and materials for dealing with oil spills in the Arctic and sub-arctic marine environment; and

  • complement Federal and State damage assessment efforts and determine, document, assess, and understand the long-range effects of Arctic or subarctic oil spills on the natural resources of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters…and the environment, the economy, and the lifestyle and well-being of the people who are dependent on them, except that the Institute shall not conduct studies or make recommendations on any matter that is not directly related to Arctic or subarctic oil spills or the effects thereof.

OPA 90 identifies the Prince William Sound Science Center (at the time called the Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute) in Cordova, Alaska, as the administrator of OSRI. Although established in legislation in 1990, substantial funding for OSRI was not provided until 1996. It disbursed its first funds in FY98, at a start-up level of $200,000.



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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions 1 Introduction In 1989, the T/V Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound and spilled approximately 11 million gallons of oil. As one of numerous reactions to the spill, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) and within the legislation mandated the creation of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI). OSRI was established to “conduct research and carry out educational and demonstration projects designed to (Title V, Section 5001, Oil Pollution Act of 1990): identify and develop the best available techniques, equipment, and materials for dealing with oil spills in the Arctic and sub-arctic marine environment; and complement Federal and State damage assessment efforts and determine, document, assess, and understand the long-range effects of Arctic or subarctic oil spills on the natural resources of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters…and the environment, the economy, and the lifestyle and well-being of the people who are dependent on them, except that the Institute shall not conduct studies or make recommendations on any matter that is not directly related to Arctic or subarctic oil spills or the effects thereof. OPA 90 identifies the Prince William Sound Science Center (at the time called the Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute) in Cordova, Alaska, as the administrator of OSRI. Although established in legislation in 1990, substantial funding for OSRI was not provided until 1996. It disbursed its first funds in FY98, at a start-up level of $200,000.

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions Now OSRI receives about $1.2 million per year, generated as interest on a $22.5 million trust held by the U.S. Treasury (U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act, 1996). Thus, OSRI is a relatively new program with a limited track record to evaluate. To date, the OSRI research program has supported about $5 million of projects over the approximately five years of operation since it began making awards. Figure 1-1 provides a general timeframe of OSRI activities. Under the guidance of the OSRI director and with advice from its Advisory Board and the Scientific and Technical Committee, the current OSRI R&D grant program translated its legislative mandate into three focus areas: applied technology (to conduct research and development on new technologies for preventing and responding to oil spills in the Arctic and subarctic), predictive ecology (to develop new capabilities to predict changes in populations at risk from spills), and public education and outreach (to make the research process interactive with the public and in general provide public information and education about oil spill impacts and response). These areas of focus and other key aspects of how OSRI is administered arose out of a strategic planning workshop held in 1997, when the Advisory Board provided guidance, adopted procedures, and wrote its first business plan. In this plan, the Advisory Board adopted an allocation system to ensure a balanced program that addressed the OSRI mission, and instructed the director to seek spending targets of 40-40-20 percent for applied technology, predictive ecology, and public education and outreach grants, respectively. These three areas continue to be OSRI’s primary areas of focus, although there is some overlap among the areas. The Advisory Board also directed OSRI staff to develop a grant policy manual. OSRI policies are based on the policies and procedures of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Undersea Research Program, and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC). The Advisory Board also adopted the current mechanism for grant approval, authorizing the director to approve awards under $25,000, involving the STC in awards of less than $100,000, and requiring Advisory Board approval for awards over $100,000. OSRI funding is authorized for a 10-year period that ends in 2006 and discussions are beginning to determine if the Institute will be continued. THE COMMITTEE’S CHARGE AND METHODS The legislators who created OSRI under OPA 90 foresaw the need for periodic reviews to ensure that the program was meeting its legislative mandate, and Section 2731 allowed OSRI to request a review from the National Academy of Sciences. This report is the first external view of

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions FIGURE 1-1 Timeframe of OSRI activities. SOURCE: Walter Parker, OSRI Advisory Board.

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions the OSRI program, and it is the effort of a committee of nine members selected based on expertise relevant to the OSRI’s program (see Appendix A). This report is not a project-by-project review of all OSRI activities; it is a broad assessment of the programs strengths and weaknesses, with special emphasis on whether it is addressing its intended mission and whether the work supported is of high quality. In many ways, the committee operated as a visiting committee (an evaluation technique often used in university settings, where a group of outside experts is invited to visit, gather information, and provide an evaluation). The committee met three times over the course of about eight months to gather information, deliberate, and write its report. By necessity, we relied heavily on OSRI to provide documents and answer questions about its modes of operation. As a result, much of our information comes as personal communication and our findings and recommendations are based on our consensus expert judgments. To gain an understanding of OSRI’s mission and activities, the committee held conversations with OSRI staff, the OSRI Advisory Board, members of the OSRI Scientific and Technical Committee, past and current researchers, potential users of OSRI products, and others knowledgeable about OSRI programs. It distributed a call for input to gain other views of the program; although the responses received were anecdotal, they did help shape our understanding of the program. The committee also reviewed selected documents from the OSRI files in an attempt to develop a broad view of how the program has operated and its effectiveness. Documents included but were not limited to: the Grant Policy Manual, the Advisory Board minutes, sample Broad Area Announcements (BAAs), samples of proposals received, the 1995 Oil Pollution and Technology Plan, annual work plans, the 1999 Business Plan, and progress reports and publications for OSRI projects. This report is organized to parallel the five questions posed to the committee (Box 1-1). Chapter 1 describes the OSRI mission and provides the general context for this review. Chapters 2 and 3 examine the organization and administration of OSRI and assess whether the process used to select research and technology projects is sound and fair. Chapter 4 considers whether OSRI planning documents set an appropriate course for the future. Chapters 5 through 8 focus on the primary components of the

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions BOX 1-1 CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE The Oil Spill Recovery Institute was established to identify and develop methods to deal with oil spills in the Arctic and subarctic environment and develop a better understanding of the long-range effects of oil spills on the natural resources of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters, including the environment, economy, and people. This committee was charged to review OSRI’s activities (both the research program and technology development and implementation activities). The committee was assigned the following tasks: Explore whether the research and activities supported to date adequately address the mission of the Institute, Assess whether the research and activities are of good quality and operational aspects are effective and efficient, Determine whether the process used to select the research and activities is sound, Consider whether existing planning documents set an appropriate course for the future, and Offer recommendations for future directions and opportunities suitable to the OSRI mission, and comment, if possible, on mechanisms to increase responses to the organization’s calls for proposals. OSRI program (predictive ecology, applied technology, modeling, and education/outreach) and assesses whether the funded mix of research and technology projects adequately address the mission of OSRI and whether these activities are of high quality. Finally, Chapter 9 summarizes our findings and recommendations. OSRI STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONS OSRI was authorized in OPA 90, but it did not begin to take shape until 1996 when funding was provided within the Coast Guard Authorization Act. This act defined some of the key structures and functions of OSRI. It mandated creating the OSRI Advisory Board and specified its composition, chairmanship, terms, and members’ voting status. The operations of the Advisory Board—including policies and procedures related to officers of the board, meetings, quorums, public notice, voting and resolutions, and establishment and operation of an Executive Com-

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions mittee—are detailed in bylaws created by the Advisory Board and amended in April 1999 (Appendix B). The 1996 legislation also mandated establishment of a Scientific and Technical Committee (STC). This group provides scientific input, and is composed of specialists in matters relating to oil spill containment and clean-up, marine ecology, and the living resources and socio-economics of Prince William Sound and its adjacent waters. The STC provides advice to the Advisory Board regarding the conduct and support of research and technology projects and studies. Appointment procedures for the STC are relatively informal, with people added as the need arises at the request of the director or the Advisory Board and there are no set term limits. The pool of potential members for the STC was identified in the 1996 legislation as “… the University of Alaska, the Institute of Marine Science, PWSSC, and elsewhere in the academic community.” Under the bylaws, the chair of the STC is a representative of the University of Alaska and this person is also to serve as a nonvoting member of the Advisory Board. The legislation mandates that OSRI should operate its granting process using a traditional approach such as those used by the National Science Foundations (NSF) and others. Projects are to be identified by advertising Broad Area Announcements or Requests for Proposals. To evaluate the proposals received, the 1996 legislation requires use of an outside proposal review process “on a nationally competitive basis….” The legislation encourages research results to be published and made widely available, giving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a role as a repository for copies of all research, educational, and demonstration projects. The legislation gives responsibility for selecting the OSRI director to the Advisory Board, with recommendations from the STC and the PWSSC. The director is empowered to hire staff and incur expenses. The legislation stipulates various procedures and policies for OSRI’s operation and use of funds, and authorized funding for 10 years ending in 2006. Related to funding, it is mandated that the program’s funds would come from interest on a $22.5 million endowment. No funds were to be used to institute litigation, purchase real property, or construct buildings, and no more than 20 percent of the funds may be used to lease facilities and administer OSRI. The legislation also stipulated that “the Institute shall not conduct studies or make recommendations on any matter which is not directly related to Arctic or subarctic oil spills or the effects thereof.” The revenues for OSRI over its 10-year term are expected to be about $14 million total, with annual revenues averaging $1.4 million.

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions OSRI AND OTHER GULF OF ALASKA RESEARCH PROGRAMS OSRI was one of numerous responses to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, however, its establishment came at a time when emphasis was shifting away from damage assessments and toward improving our capabilities to understand and respond to future events. Several external influences were important in how the OSRI legislation was implemented as an operational program. For example, according to conversations with Advisory Board members involved in the founding of OSRI (W. Parker, OSRI Advisory Board, personal communication, February 7, 2002), a major research program known as GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) was evolving at the time OSRI was being established in the early 1990s and the GLOBEC experience was considered in designing OSRI. GLOBEC stressed the importance of understanding the coupling of physical and biological systems in understanding ecosystem change in marine systems. Also in the same timeframe, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) was administering a major program designed to conduct damage assessments after the spill and conduct research related to restoration of damaged resources and understanding of environmental change in the northern Gulf of Alaska. One part of the EVOSTC activities was a program called the Sound Ecosystem Assessment (SEA)1 and a 1997 SEA workshop and a 1997 SEA workshop on modeling appears to have been important to OSRI planning. With about $1 million in allocatable funding each year, OSRI is a relatively small program. But it is working in a region with many other ongoing research programs (Box 1-2) and coordination and leveraging of funding is an essential part of making sure that the various programs are synergistic and not redundant. 1   The Sound Ecosystem Assessment program was a multidisciplinary, ecosystem-level investigation of factors affecting recovery of pink salmon and Pacific herring in Prince William Sound, Alaska, following the 1989 oil spill. The primary avenues of investigation were descriptive oceanography and ocean circulation modeling, to investigate the roles of physical forcing on production of food, and ecosystem modeling, to develop analytical and predictive capabilities for assessing likely effects of perturbations to the ecosystem. SEA involved 13 coordinated research projects led by investigators from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Marine Science, the Prince William Sound Science Center, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service Copper River Delta Institute, and the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation. It was sponsored by the EVOSTC.

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions BOX 1-2 EXAMPLES OF RELEVANT RESEARCH ACTIVITIES IN THE PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND AND GULF OF ALASKA REGION U.S. Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics Program (GLOBEC) (funded by NSF and NOAA). The U.S. GLOBEC research initiative has been called for by the oceanographic, marine ecology and fisheries communities to address the question: what will be the impact of changes in our global environment on populations and communities of marine animals comprising marine ecosystems? The U.S. GLOBEC approach is to develop basic information about the mechanisms that determine the variability of marine animal populations. Through such understanding scientists can produce reliable predictions of population changes in the face of a shifting global environment. More information is available online at <http://www.nsf.gov/geo/egch/gc_globec.html>. Ocean Carrying Capacity (NMFS). ABL’s Ocean Carrying Capacity program continues the NMFS role in the stewardship of living marine resources of the North Pacific Ocean. This research, supported by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, will bridge the gap between ongoing coastal ecosystem studies in Prince William Sound and the high seas Carrying Capacity and Climate Change study developed by North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). More information is available online at <http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/abl/OCC/occ.htm>. Steller Sea Lion Coordinated Research Program (NOAA and others). The listing of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 created new challenges for fisheries managers in the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Managers must balance between two sometimes conflicting objectives: protecting and aiding the recovery of the Steller sea lion under the Endangered Species Act while at the same time providing for sustainable and economically viable fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Steller Sea Lion Coordinated Research Program, administered by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Alaska Fisheries Science Center, is composed of more than 150 research projects conducted on Steller sea lions. To date, roughly $84,000 million has been appropriated for this program to coordinating agencies such as NOAA (NMFS, NOS, and OAR), the University of Alaska, North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska SeaLife Center, and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. More information is available online at <http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/Stellers/coordinatedresearch.htm>. (NOAA’s webpage is currently under construction.)

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions EVOSTC GEM Program and Transition Projects. GEM is a long-term commitment to understanding the Gulf of Alaska and sharing information that will determine the future of the gulf ecosystem and the human activities that depend on it. What makes GEM unique is that it incorporates interagency cooperation and collaboration, public involvement and accessibility, and informative data and information on the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem. More information is available online at <http://www.oilspill.state.ak.us/gem/index.html.> NASA Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) (MODIS). The purpose of the SeaWiFS project is to provide quantitative data on global ocean bio-optical properties to the Earth science community. The SeaWiFS project has been designated to develop and operate a research data system that will gather, process, archive, and distribute data received from an ocean color sensor. This program evaluates the dynamic nature of the world’s oceans and climate, and the importance of the ocean’s role in global change. More information is available online at http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEAWIFS/BACKGROUND/. Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council (PWS RCAC). The PWS RCAC is an independent, non-profit organization formed in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The council provides a voice for communities and citizens on oil industry decisions that may affect them. The council’s members are communities and groups affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The council is certified under the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 as the citizens’ advisory group for Prince William Sound. The council conducts independent research to support its mission and goals. One such example is its Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program (LTEMP), a modified mussel-watch program that monitors for the presence of hydrocarbons resulting from Alyeska Marine Terminal and associated tanker operations. More information is available online at <http://www.pwsrcac.org>. A similar Citizens’ Advisory Council exists for Cook Inlet. Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP) program (NSF, NOAA, ONR). The coastal ocean has a number of unique physical and meteorological processes that promote high biological productivity, active sedimentary processes, dynamic chemical transformations, and intense air-sea interactions. As more of the world’s population shifts towards coastal areas, human impacts on the coastal ocean in terms of pollution, waste disposal, and recreation continue to increase. CoOP research provides a greater understanding of how the coastal ocean system functions. Research projects conducted under the auspices of CoOP are funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanic and

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The Oil Spill Recovery Institute: Past, Present, and Future Directions Atmospheric Administration. More information is available online at <http://www.geo.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/showprog.pl?id=49&div=oce>. North Pacific Research Board (NPRB). The NPRB’s mission is to develop a comprehensive science program of the highest caliber that provides better understanding of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean ecosystems and their fisheries. The board’s research priorities include fish habitat, ecosystems dynamics, endangered and stressed species, reduction in fishing capacity and bycatch, salmon dynamics, fish stock assessment and ecology, and contaminants. Its work will be conducted through science planning, prioritization of pressing fishery management and ecosystem information needs, coordination and cooperation among research programs, competitive selection of research projects, enhanced information availability, and public involvement.