There are over 400 designated environmentally sensitive sites and associated protection strategies in California(s coastal waters. To meet the challenge of protecting sensitive sites, California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) has developed the Sensitive Site Strategy Evaluation Program (SSSEP).

The SSSEP provides a program to test and evaluate the effectiveness of “protective response strategies”. These strategies have been designed to exclude or divert oil spills away from these sites. Tides and currents, wind, water depth, and obstructions can have dramatic influence on how a strategy is designed and performs. The need to test and evaluate these strategies is critical to ensure that the strategies do work in an actual oil spill emergency to protect sensitive resources.

In California, marine oil facilities, vessels carrying petroleum cargo, and non-tank vessels over 300 tons are required to have an oil spill contingency plan. These contingency plan-holders are required to protect environmentally sensitive sites which may be impacted by an oil spill. Most contingency plan-holders form their plans based upon the response strategies contained in the regional Area Contingency Plans (ACP) and rely upon Oil Spill Response Organizations (OSROs) to supply the needed response resources.

In a cooperative venture, OSPR, the San Francisco Area Committee and OSROs have teamed together to conduct the SSSEP. The OSROs participating are MSRC and NRC Environmental Services. These OSROs provide the vast majority of San Francisco Plan Holders with their spill response services and have volunteered their time and efforts to test the response strategies.

The SSSEP is providing important information on just how effective our strategies are and what we can to do to improve them. OSPR's future goal is to expand the SSSEP into California's other ACP areas, validating and building assurances in sensitive site protection strategies.

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