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Dispersants approved for use by the FOSC need to be applied

Using these RRT IX guidelines:

  • Pre-approval zones are only in waters no closer than 3 nautical miles from the nearest shoreline, not within 3 mile of the CA/Mexico border, not within a National Marine Sanctuary, and for uses that do not involved subsea application or application at the surface for more than 5 days.

  • Dispersants will not be applied in waters less than 60’ deep (although unlikely in the Pre-Approval Zone)

  • Dispersants cannot be applied to any diesel spill, or similar light product (gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene)

  • The SMART controller/observer should be over the spray site before the start of the operation. If possible, a DOI/DOC-approved marine mammal/turtle and pelagic/migratory birds observation specialist (see Attachment IV) will accompany the SMART observer. However, the operation will not be delayed for either function.

  • The marine wildlife observer, or the person functioning as that observer, is strongly encouraged to use the Wildlife Observation Report Form and the Wildlife Spotting Protocols (Attachment VI)). However, the operation will not be delayed for this function

  • Personnel protective equipment for personnel on-site will conform to the appropriate dispersant’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) (Attachment X).

  • Dispersant application aircraft will maintain a minimum 1000-foot horizontal separation from rafting flocks of birds. Caution will be taken to avoid spraying over marine mammals and marine turtles (see Attachment XI for resource agency contact information).

  • If the dispersant application platform is a boat, see Discussion Note 8.3.


Once a decision to use dispersants is made, it is critical that a public communications plans be implemented (Attachment V). The general public as well as stakeholders must be made aware of any decision to use dispersants and a mechanism created for reliable and continuous updates.

An initial press conference should be held which outlines the decision to use dispersants, provides background and scientific information, and addresses any other environmental and safety considerations expressed by the public. Sample press releases are in Attachment V.a, with other public meeting and risk communication tips offered throughout Attachment V.
A public meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible to provide a mechanism for sharing information and addressing public concerns and fears. Attachment V.d and V.e provides guidelines for preparing and conducting a public meeting. Areas that must be adequately addressed during the meeting include:

  • Seafood safety concerns posed by dispersants (Attachment VI).

  • Risk communication (Attachment V.c and Attachment VI).

  • Results of net environmental benefit analyses, and species of special concern (Attachment I).
  • Monitoring policies established for the spill (tools used from Attachment III).

Refer to Attachment VI for key points to consider regarding seafood tainting, as well as information on accessing NOAA and state resources for assessing seafood safety.



This FOSC Checklist applies only to those California offshore waters pre-approved for dispersant use (see Box 4). However, dispersant use even in the pre-approval areas must follow certain guidelines (Box 6) and may be further limited by federal agencies with responsibility for endangered marine animal management (Attachment XI).

Pre-approval dispersant zone recommendations do not presume the absence of sensitive species, other marine species, or impacts to species on the water surface or in the upper water column. It does presume that there will be impacts from the spilled oil, and from dispersant use, to some of those species. However, based on the natural resource information used in the planning stage, it was determined that there could be a net environmental benefit to the use of dispersants.
However, at the time of an actual spill and a decision to use dispersants, real-time information on marine animal presence (Box 1b and Box 7b), the potential impacts from the spill (DISPERSANT ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET), and important supplemental information (Attachment I and Boxes 7a-b) should all be considered and weighed by the FOSC in making a final decision to use dispersants, probable impacts, and where the net environmental benefits will occur.

The FOSC may use the regional sensitive species and habitat information from Attachment Ifor each major coastal area in which dispersant use may have an impact in order to consider:

  • The type and value of habitat potentially affected.

  • The sensitivity of affected resources to oil, and to different oil response strategies.

  • Natural recovery rates of affected species and habitats.

  • Likely oil persistence and degradation rates with and without dispersant use.

  • Potential oil toxicity on surface water species compared to water column and/or seafloor species.

Dispersant use is generally not appropriate in areas with limited water circulation and flushing,

near aquaculture facilities, shellfish beds and fish-spawning grounds, and around seawater intakes.

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