OPA 90 directs Cook Inlet RCAC to identify areas that are particularly sensitive to oil spills and to study environmental factors that affect the ability to prevent, respond to, or clean-up spilled oil. Knowing that shorelines are often the habitats exposed for the longest periods after an oil spill, Cook Inlet RCAC developed a coastal habitat mapping program with goals to inventory and characterize coastal habitats; identify and characterize unique or particularly sensitive habitats; and make information easily accessible to users.
Highlights of this Cook Inlet RCAC program so far include:
- Conducted biophysical habitat imaging and mapping for every inch of shoreline within our areas of concern, including the outer Kenai Peninsula, all of Cook Inlet, the Katmai Coast, and the Kodiak Island archipelago. Since our first surveys in 2001, there are now over 40 partnering organizations in an Alaska ShoreZone program, with over 50% of the entire state’s shoreline completed. Data and imagery are now administered and served by NOAA.
- Provided detailed species assemblage maps of major salt marsh habitats in Cook Inlet through a partnership with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, including Chickaloon, Trading, Iliamna, Inisikin, Chinitna, and Tuxedni Bays and the Fox River Flats.
- Established on-the-beach surveys to document species-level information and detailed physical measurements for habitats observed during aerial surveys. To date, over a hundred sites in our area have been surveyed and a web-accessible database was developed with a link provided on the ShoreZone website.
- Developed a flash video imagery tool for oil spill planning and response.
- Discovered several unique habitats in our areas of concern, including seaweed habitats in Kamishak Bay that may not exist elsewhere in the world.
- Surveyed previously un-described Macrocystis kelp beds in the Kodiak Island Archipelago.
- Described a potential Arctic Relict Assemblage on the west side of Cook Inlet through a partnership with the University of Alaska.
- Sponsored development and hosting of Seaweeds of Alaska website as a research and public outreach tool focused on intertidal and nearshore seaweed.