Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
Select this button stylePrint Friendly

Collaborators from the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, US Coast Guard, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Service, U.S. EPA, Clean Harbors, and US Venture participated in the exercise. Photo by Betsy Galbraith/USFWS   

Collaborators from the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Harbors, and U.S. Venture participated in the exercise. Photo by Betsy Galbraith/USFWS.

Spill exercise aims to protect Lower Green Bay

What do piping plovers, a tanker truck filled with diesel, Lambeau Field and more than 40 local responders have in common? These elements recently came together for a spill exercise in Lower Green Bay to further protection of the Cat Island Chain, an important habitat for migratory birds including the federally endangered piping plover.

The exercise simulated the release of 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Duck Creek Delta, traveling towards the Cat Island Chain. The Service was represented in the exercise’s Unified Command, directing strategies for placing more than 1,000 feet of boom and protecting sensitive resources, including nesting plovers and their chicks.

“Cat Island has once again become a hotspot for migratory birds,” stated Betsy Galbraith, a biologist with the Service’s Green Bay sub-office. “The unique setting near an urban area and major shipping port makes this spill exercise very worthwhile.” Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, sits several miles away from the Cat Islands, but is part of the backdrop for the exercise site.

Collaborators from the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, including their Marine Division and Hazmat Team, U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Service, Clean Harbors and U.S. Venture participated in the exercise.

Prior to the exercise, many local responders were not familiar with the importance of Cat Island for birds and other wildlife. “We learned a lot from this exercise, including the purpose and significance of the Cat Island project,” remarked David Siegel, training officer for the Green Bay Metro Fire Department Hazmat Team. “Before this exercise, the Cat Island project was an unknown construct about a mile or more from the city. Now the fire department understands its importance to the various stakeholders.”

The Cat Island Chain reconstruction began in 2012, after 25 years of planning. While some of the remnant islands and wetland habitat still remain, the goal of the project is to reconstruct the 272-acre Cat Island Chain that includes a 2.5-mile long wave barrier and provides habitat. During extremely high water levels in the mid-1970s, a series of severe storms during ice breakup resulted in catastrophic erosion and ice damage to the islands.

In 2016, the site attracted nesting piping plovers for the first time in Lower Green Bay in 75 years, and three chicks fledged. This year, six plover chicks fledged. Rufa redknots and whooping cranes also use the habitat. Dredged materials from the Fox River and Green Bay are being placed within the island cells over the next several decades, creating mudflats that attract more than 35 species of migrating shorebirds. Funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Coastal Program and Sustain Our Great Lakes have contributed to restoration efforts at the site.

Partners involved in the exercise plan to continue their joint efforts for emergency response and spill planning in Lower Green Bay with a larger exercise planned nearby for this fall.

By Betsy Galbraith
Minnesota-Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office

The Green Bay Metro Fire Department deploys boom near the Cat Island Chain during a spill response exercise. Photo by Trina Soyk/USFWS

The Green Bay Metro Fire Department deploys boom near the Cat Island Chain during a spill response exercise. Photo by Trina Soyk/USFWS.

 

Last updated: September 13, 2017