The use of dispersants in marine waters off California requires detailed foresight and planning. In an effort to expedite a decision to use dispersants and reduce first strike response time, the Region IX Regional Response Team tasked Californias Marine Area Committees to recommend dispersant approval zones. Each Area Committee conducted Net Environmental Benefit Analyses for their areas of responsibility, and from those analyses recommended dispersant zone designations to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Regional Response Team (RRT). All zone recommendations were approved by the RRT in July 2002, and development of the remaining elements of the dispersant plan began. Using primarily a model developed in New Zealand, the authors drafted a comprehensive dispersant use plan for the waters off California. The U.S. Coast Guard Captains of the Port in California reviewed the draft plan, and tested it during the April, 2004 Spill of National Significance (SONS) drill in southern California. The streamlined decision flowcharts, imbedded “Decision Boxes” and operational appendices with further instructions, forms and resource contact information, proved the California Dispersant Plan was a very intuitive and workable response decision tool. During the SONS drill, this greatly improved the ability of the Unified Command to make a decision regarding dispersant use, get the resources in place, and begin dispersant sorties within the operational “window” for dispersant use. It is expected that the same expedited and informed response process will serve California well during an actual oil spill response.

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