On Monday, Sept. 20, 2010, the Unified Area Command, formed in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will consolidate Incident Command Posts in Houma, La., and Mobile, Ala., into a Gulf Coast Incident Management Team located in New Orleans.
The planned reorganization of the command structure has been designed to more efficiently support the needs of the day-to-day operation of the ongoing response while not impacting the frontline responders cleaning shoreline, sampling Gulf waters, and responding to any recoverable oil found.
"The Incident Command Posts located across the Gulf region during the emergency phase of this response allowed our on-scene commanders to make critical decisions to protect sensitive coastal areas in real time as we all worked to bring the Deepwater Horizon wellhead under control," said Federal On-Scene Coordinator Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft.
"While the risk posed by the wellhead has ended, we still have 25 thousand workers conducting clean up operations along 600 miles of shoreline and this consolidation of our command structure allows us to more efficiently support those operations while allowing federal agencies to redeploy hundreds of personnel where they are most needed."
The consolidation plan was approved by the Zukunft in consultation with Gulf state governors, and state and local officials based on feedback provided by incident commanders on the status of response activities. Response liaisons will remain in place to ensure ongoing two-way communication between state and local officials with IMT staff in New Orleans.
At the height of the response, as many as 47,848 responders, 8,044 vessels and 123 aircraft were deployed to the Gulf to spot, track and recover oil. As the response transitions from the emergency to recovery phase, the focus of operations has shifted to the beaches, marshes, wetlands and other sensitive coastal areas for cleanup and equipment removal while scientists continue to monitor the water for the presence of remaining oil.
"This consolidation reflects a right-sizing of command personnel but in no way diminishes our commitment to the people of the Gulf region in the wake of this unprecedented event," said Zukunft. "The federal government will remain as long as it takes to ensure all recoverable oil has been removed from the Gulf, seafood coming out of the Gulf is safe to eat, and beaches along the Gulf coast are open for business."
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