Today's release of the movie "Deepwater Horizon" once again draws attention to the explosion that left 11 men dead and created the largest man-made environmental disaster in the nation's history. The movie focuses on the real human tragedy of the disaster -- on the lives of those lost and on those who escaped from the burning rig -- even as the environmental effects left by the 200 million gallons of oil that spilled into the Gulf are still playing out today.
The Gulf of Mexico is a national asset for its energy production and maritime operations, Kirkpatrick said. "Oil and gas leases are in deeper waters than ever and when the next spill occurs, we will need to answer the same questions: Where is the oil? Where is it going? We have an opportunity now to develop a comprehensive observing system in the Gulf so that we are fully prepared to answer those questions and can quickly respond to protect human lives and resources. The need is now greater than ever."
Marine operations -- such as those undertaken during oil and gas drilling -- is one of the key focus areas in the new
GCOOS Strategic Plan
. The others are coastal hazards, healthy ecosystems & living resources and human health & safety. "The Gulf of Mexico has a wide variety of stakeholders who have many different interests,"
said William Lingsch, newly elected Chairman of the GCOOS Board of Directors
. "But each fits into one of these four key focus areas and will help us ensure that we are undertaking activities that allow us to meet their needs."
includes some clear priorities:
- An expanded network of high-frequency radar assets in the Gulf and Southeast Atlantic -- increased accuracy and more timely predictions can be vital when coastlines are at risk from hurricanes and oil spills but especially for pinpointing the location of missing people and vessels.
- Additional autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) -- sensors on these platforms were tremendously valuable in locating oil below the surface during the DWH spill and in subsequent tracking of its movement following the explosion.
- Better models -- necessary to support actions that improve coastal resilience.
GCOOS's continued partnership with its 151 members, stakeholders across the Gulf and at key federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations will be necessary to fully realize the goals laid out in this
, Kirkpatrick said. But it will also depend on funding.
"Right now, with funds available from the financial settlement from BP and other entities, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to install a more comprehensive system that will allow us to achieve this shared vision," Kirkpatrick said. "There has been much discussion about widespread coordination for Gulf monitoring and observations. But the question remains, will we take action?"