The Torch/Platform Irene Oil Spill Trustee Council continues to implement a number of restoration projects addressing injuries to seabirds arising from a 1997 oil spill from a pipeline into the Santa Barbara Channel. These restoration projects focus on Brown Pelicans, Brandt's Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, and Western Gulls, the species most heavily impacted by the oil spill. In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the Trustees include two California state agencies, NOAA, and the U.S. Air Force.
In 2010, the Trustees directed $1.2 million of settlement funds to the Bureau of Land Management to establish the Seabird Colony Enhancement Project over a 300-mile long project area. The goal of the project is to restore populations of nesting and roosting seabirds by reducing multiple kinds of human disturbances to colonies and to monitor progress toward recovery of seabird populations since the spill. The design of this effort is modeled after the successful work of the Command Oil Spill Trustee Council to establish a similar Seabird Protection Network further north on the California coast near San Francisco from Monterey County to Sonoma County.
The trustees are especially concerned about the seabird colonies closest to population centers because of the potential detrimental impact of human activity on seabird populations. Specifically, Trustees are focusing on colonies near the Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, and Morro Rock near San Luis Obispo. These activities are providing essential information about eventual needs for access control and habitat improvements for seabird colonies in the project area. Observations will extend to remote colonies in southern Monterey County in future seasons.