New Cook Inlet Monitoring Site Aids Responders In Real Time


     A new online tool developed by the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and the Alaska Ocean Observing System went live last week, just in time to be put to use tracking developments off Kodiak Island with the grounding of the drilling rig Kulluk. The new Cook Inlet Response Tool, or CIRT, was designed specifically for tracking and planning for oil spills and other incidents around Cook Inlet.

     Users of the site can see what’s happening, in real time, all over Cook Inlet and beyond. CIRCAC worked with the Alaska Ocean Observing System to put together an impressive amount of data, all in one place.

     Want to see what the roads look like in Ninilchik? Or find out more about the spill response plan for the Drift River Terminal on the West Side of the Inlet? Maybe see what the weather’s like in Beluga? That’s just the beginning of what this new CIRT website can provide.

     The catalog of data reaches all the way down to Kodiak and came in pretty handy over the last week as we all watched Shell play a tender game of catch and tow with the Kulluk drill rig. The official announcement for the site came last Friday and Susan Saupe the Director of Science and Research for CIRCAC in Kodiak, says responders were linking up to it almost immediately from the Anchorage Command Center.

     “Again, they weren’t able to do an overflight until the following morning so it was a really great window into what that beach looked like when it doesn’t have 40 foot swells on it,” Saupe said.

     That’s precisely what CIRT was designed for.

     With dozens of data points and monitoring stations all over the Cook Inlet area, anyone can access the site and see, for instance, where concentrations of Tanner crabs are in Kachemak Bay or the surface temperature of the water near Kalgin Island. It’s about aggregating all of the information in one place where it can be sort of mixed and matched and taken in visually.

     The data are produced by 30 different cooperating state and federal agencies working for more than a decade to piece it all together in a comprehensive package. Cooperating agencies have been conducting coastal habitat studies since 2001.

     Saupe said CIRT is a work in progress, but they hope to continue to refine it as a kind of one-stop shop for just about any kind of marine, science or weather information anyone could want.

     “It can be from various different government agencies or organizations and if they have a web cam in Cook Inlet or if they have a weather station, get that information linked so people can access it in real time and you don’t have to go to the FAA to look at their sensors and NOAA to look at their sensors,” she said.

     She said they’re anxious to get some feedback from users about what can be improved, what information is missing and how it can all be made better.