WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Oil Spill Response and Restoration on the North Raccoon River, Iowa

Region 3, January 18, 2013
Oil spill personnel discuss cleanup alternatives for an oiled gravelly beach along the North Raccoon River.
Oil spill personnel discuss cleanup alternatives for an oiled gravelly beach along the North Raccoon River. - Photo Credit: n/a
Oil spill personnel under the oversight of USEPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service place absorbent booms around an oil slick in Topeka shiner critical habitat.
Oil spill personnel under the oversight of USEPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service place absorbent booms around an oil slick in Topeka shiner critical habitat. - Photo Credit: n/a
A biologist from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources places a bamboo pole with shiny mylar tape at an oiled patch of sandy beach. The mylar tape flapping in the wind scares away the migrating shorebirds so that they do not forage for invertebrates in the oily sand. Note the green colored water from an algal bloom likely related to nutrients released from the oil. Algal blooms can stress aquatic life by decreasing dissolved oxygen concentrations. The dissolved oxygen concentrations were low, but not enought to kill fish.
A biologist from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources places a bamboo pole with shiny mylar tape at an oiled patch of sandy beach. The mylar tape flapping in the wind scares away the migrating shorebirds so that they do not forage for invertebrates in the oily sand. Note the green colored water from an algal bloom likely related to nutrients released from the oil. Algal blooms can stress aquatic life by decreasing dissolved oxygen concentrations. The dissolved oxygen concentrations were low, but not enought to kill fish. - Photo Credit: n/a

The largest oil spill in Iowa occurred on September 13th, 2012, into the North Raccoon River. Several thousands of gallons of used motor oil discharged from a valve for a greenhouse heating system tank located in Jefferson, Iowa. The used motor oil flowed down a ravine and into the North Raccoon River. Several miles of sand bar beaches and side channels were oiled. The cleanup lasted a couple of weeks. Contaminants biologists from the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted in the oil spill cleanup by providing technical expertise to the emergency response personnel.

The North Raccoon River is part of the Raccoon River watershed in central Iowa. It is a wild flowing river with many riffles, runs, pools, sand and gravel bars, and small side channels. The side channels are federally listed as Critical Habitat for the federally and State listed endangered Topeka shiner. The Topeka shiner is a headwater stream minnow that also uses floodplain wetlands in a number of tributaries to the North Raccoon River. The North Raccoon River serves as a corridor for dispersal and connectivity between the Topeka shiner populations in the tributaries. The river also provides foraging habitat for migrating shorebirds and other aquatic dependent migratory birds.

The technical expertise provided to the response agencies included the development of best management practices as part of the emergency endangered species consultation for the Topeka shiner. The practices were designed to minimize the impacts to the Topeka shiner and its habitats. The contaminants biologists also mapped the entire length of the oiled sand bar beaches and side channels. The biologists installed bird deterrent features to haze migratory birds from the oiled shorelines until the response personnel could remove the surface oil from the beaches. A few birds did get oiled, but could not be captured for rehabilitation.

 

The U.S. Department of the Interior led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to conduct a natural resource damage assessment. The results of the natural resource damage assessment will be used to determine the scale of restoration projects to offset the injuries and losses to natural resources from the oil spill and oil spill response. The restoration projects are constructed or paid for by the responsible party so the public is made whole.

Contact Info: Mike Coffey, 309-793-5800 X515, michael_coffey@fws.gov