Coastal Area Contingency Plans (ACP) developed by local Area Committees are the consensus stakeholder documents that guide response actions to oil spills. Key to these ACPs are the Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) that identify specific areas and resources that are priorities for protection during spill response. Within the GRPs, the operational strategies to protect each priority are pre-identified and depicted on maps.

One of the priorities contained within the GRPs are tidal inlets. They are the gateways to much of the most sensitive habitat and resources to protect in the event of an oil spill. To address protection of these important gateways, Tidal Inlet Protection Strategies (TIPS) for Oil Spill Response have been developed that are scientifically and operationally based. They are designed to protect the resources inside the inlet from oil that may enter from an offshore source.

Tidal inlets, while among the most important areas to protect, are also some of the most difficult to effectively protect. This is due to strong currents created by flood and ebb tidal flows (which are often not fully known), associated bathymetry stability issues (shoaling), responder access, and sensitive resource concerns subject to impact from the oil as well as from response actions. The inlets, in addition to being so critical for the protection of environmental resources, are also typically very important gateways for commerce and other waterway use activities.

The TIPS concept has been tested for several inlets over the years. Most recently, a class A inlet (highest degree of difficulty) strategy was tested in South Florida. This poster will present issues related to the value and importance of developing and testing TIPS, hurdles and difficulties to overcome when planning TIPS projects and tests, positive outcomes from an operational perspective as well as from benefits derived from education, coordination and management of expectations of government, industry, and the public when it comes to protection of environmental resources during a major oil spill. Finally, the poster will offer recommendations and issues for discussion that area committees should consider relative to TIPS and area contingency planning in general.

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