Recent increases in vessel traffic through the Bering Straits in northwest Alaska, combined with the certainty of continued increases in the future as the polar ice cap retreats, have raised concerns about the potential for marine accidents and impacts from oil spills, especially in the remote communities located on Saint Lawrence Island. This Bering Sea Island is located south of the Arctic Circle, 40 miles from Russia, and 110 miles from Nome, Alaska. It can take days to mobilize to the island and there is no spill response equipment stationed there. The two communities on the island, Savoonga and Gambell, are closely tied to the marine environment as they obtain over 90% of their food from subsistence. They see oil spills as a threat to their subsistence lifestyle. The development of Geographic Response Strategies is one tool that has been used in Alaska to protect the sensitive coastal areas. GRS are pre-planned oil spill tactics designed to protect pre-selected sites from spilled oil. Each strategy is tailored to approximately 3 miles of coastline. A workgroup of state, local, tribal, and federal governments, as well as industry representatives and local stakeholders, oversees the development of the GRS. A tactics group drafts the strategies after they visit the sites to survey the conditions in the area. In remote Alaska, site visits are often not possible. This leaves the workgroup with the uncertain task of designing strategies with limited information about the location and no local knowledge about the operating environment. Over a five-day period from July 20–24, 2013 a site visit was conducted on Saint Lawrence Island. Outcomes included: • Increased local understanding of oil spill response and the limitations associated with response in this harsh environment. •Increased knowledge of contingency planning and local governments' input in planning. •Information was gathered regarding protection priorities and the ability to participate in training, storing equipment, and initiating the GRS.• Information regarding ocean and tidal currents, winds, shoreline composition, and other data that is unavailable elsewhere was included in the GRS.• Local names of landmarks were included in the GRS to reflect the local culture. Most importantly, by engaging the stakeholders most likely to be effected in a coastal oil spills, response planners can not only strengthen the plans and increase the likelihood that a potential response is successful, but also strengthen the relationship between the local community and the response community.

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