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OR&R Staff Recognized with Public Service Award

JUNE 12, 2023 — Six members of OR&R were recognized on May 2, 2023 as part of an Outstanding Group Award presented by the Seattle Federal Executive Board (SFEB). Recognized OR&R staff included: CDR Faith Knighton, LTJG Kyle Vincent, Chris Barker, and Andrew Mason. Two OR&R contractors, Dylan Righi with Genwest and Megan Ewald with CSS, also contributed to this accomplishment.

A U.S. Coast Guard team removing the floating fishing nets from the fishing vessel Aleutian Isle on August 24, 2022. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard
A U.S. Coast Guard team removing the floating fishing nets from the F/V Aleutian Isle on August 24, 2022. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard

The NOAA team—members of OR&R, Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPs), National Weather Service (NWS), and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—along with federal, state, local, tribal, and community partners, were recognized with the prestigious award. This community response team seamlessly conducted maritime environmental protection and safety operations in August-September 2022, resulting in the safe and successful recovery of the fishing vessel Aleutian Isle. Their work minimized impact to the environment, culturally sensitive areas, and other protected resources throughout the San Juan Islands, Washington. 

The interagency team established a Unified Command to coordinate a robust response for 45 consecutive days, involving over $1.2 million of equipment salvaged in a complex deep water dive operation, and the critical protection of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) and other ecologically sensitive habitats. 

A timeline of the response to the F/V Aleutian Isle sinking in Washington state. Image credit: SFEB
At the virtual Seattle Federal Executive Board “Celebration of Public Service” event on May 2, 2023, CAPT Saboe, USCG Chief of Staff with District 13, presented an Outstanding Group Award to members of NOAA OR&R, Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, National Weather Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies for their collective work on the response to the F/V Aleutian Isle sinking in Washington state. Image credit: SFEB

Utilizing state of the art remotely operated vehicles and commercial diving operations, pollution response efforts successfully identified the sunken vessel at a depth of 240 feet and provided key information that led to the recovery of nearly 2,500 gallons of oily water mixture and 590 gallons of pure diesel fuel, as well as the salvage and disposition of the vessel. 

Furthermore, the team’s response included the activation of 10 Geographic Response Plans and deployment of 7,300 feet of boom to mitigate the threat of pollution, protecting 15 miles of environmentally sensitive shoreline. The team also managed a proactive information campaign to update the public and other key stakeholders on operational progress.

OR&R and CO-OPS teams worked with a contractor to acquire and review on-site current meter data and compare it with oceanographic models. These NOS teams streamlined data sharing to produce 10 timely site-specific tidal and current prediction briefings, and identified the timing of currents to improve safety and efficiency of salvage dive operations. The current predictions were used to refine models for 14 oil spill trajectories to communicate the extent of oil released from the vessel for impacts in U.S.-Canadian waters. NMFS worked with several NGOs to report the location of the SRKW in relation to the oil every two hours during daylight hours, advised volunteer vessel of opportunity teams on deterrence operations to protect the SRKW from pollution and entanglement hazards, and advised on three ESA consultations and eight Resources at Risk to protect sensitive species and habitats. The NWS provided daily and extended site-specific weather forecasts to inform critical operations and worker safety throughout the response both for on-water and air-quality conditions.

The award was presented at the Seattle Federal Executive Board’s virtual 2023 Celebration of Public Service. The Board looks forward to this opportunity, held during Public Service Recognition Week each May, to acknowledge and appreciate public servants who work tirelessly for the good of U.S. citizens. Congratulations to the OR&R and NOAA teams—and to all of those recognized with SFEB awards. We recognize and thank all who serve on behalf of the American people.

Last updated Friday, June 16, 2023 7:19am PDT