Coastal Resilience: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM's) Role


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Malka Pattison: Good afternoon, I'm Malka Pattison and I like to welcome you to the office of Policy Analysis Seminar for July. Today we have something new a duet of two and ironically both name Jeff. Jeff Reidenauer and Jeff Wikel, both from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are here to talk about a topic that is relevant as we hit July.

We're in hurricane season and the communities and the coastal areas have become increasingly dependent on sand supplies. Most folks think of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is just that, energy, but there's a another mineral out there that's becoming increasingly important for coastal resilience. Which Jeff is speaking first? Jeff Reidenauer.

Jeff Reidenauer: Thanks, Malka. Thanks everybody. Thanks for attending and taking time out of your day today to listen to our presentation on BOEM's role in coastal resiliency. As Malka mentioned, my name is Jeff Reidenauer, the Branch Chief of the Marine Minerals branch, which is in the leasing division at BOEM. Then, my counterpart Jeff Wikel is the Chief of the Environmental Coordination branch, which is within the Environmental Assessment Division at BOEM.

We work closely together on a variety of issues regarding leases and things. We'll focus our presentation on the Atlantic Coast and our efforts to support projects and studies after Hurricane Sandy.

First, let's define what we mean by resilience. Resilience is the ability of the system to maintain and/or recover its functional performance following a disturbance. Natural features such as beaches, barrier islands and coastal dunes help to contribute to coastal resilience.

Offshore sand that falls under our jurisdiction provides a material to support coastal restoration and storm damage reduction projects along the coast. As part of our authority, we are responsible for managing the use of offshore sand and other marine minerals in the sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.

All our actions comply with environmental laws and regulations such as the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and Natural Historic Preservation Act and others.

As part of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act funding that the department received, BOEM received $13.6 million for projects involving offshore resource identification and evaluation, environmental assessment and monitoring, and collaboration with federal regional state and local stakeholders. These efforts support the department's goals with respect to increasing the resiliency of coastal areas.

BOEM is also providing additional support for coastal resilience along the Atlantic. This includes coordination within the department on Sandy projects proposed by the USGS, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.

We're also a part of the technical review team that evaluated proposals submitted to the departments. Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grants Program that's being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

We're reviewing and contributing to the preparation of the corps, the Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study. One of the recommendations we have suggested to the corps that they broaden the context of the Regional Sediment Measurement Plan, to include near-shore and offshore sand resources in addition to navigation dredged material.

We're also active participants in regional ocean partnerships, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean or MARCO, and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council or NROC. We also support the department's Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Support Function as part of the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

The Marine Minerals Program within BOEM is responsible for managing offshore non-energy minerals, which up to this point has been primarily offshore sand resources.

Our functions include responding to request for offshore sand for coastal restoration through the issuance of leases and agreements, conducting environmental reviews of projects through the NIPA process and environmental consultations, identifying and evaluating offshore sand resources and engaging stakeholders in our decision making process.

Our authority to manage offshore marine minerals is provided by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. We convey the rights for the use of OSC marine minerals through leases and agreements. As I previously mentioned, most of the leases and agreements have been for sand, for beach, and shoreline restoration.

The Outer Continental Shelf of federal jurisdiction begins three nautical miles offshore except for Texas and the Gulf Coast of Florida where begins three leagues or nine nautical miles offshore.

Not all sand is created equal and suitable OCS sand is a finite resources. What do I mean by suitable? Sand that is dredged should be a similar grain size as well as color to that of the native beach. If the sand being placed is too fine it may erode away too quickly, too coarse and the beach profile may become too stiff for recreational users.

Suitable sand is often present on discreet features on the OCS such as sand shoals and ridges that are prominent in the offshore areas especially off the Mid-Atlantic and the Delmarva Peninsula. Jeff will talk about some of the monitoring efforts and assessment work that we're doing on some of the sand shoals and ridges off above East Central Florida. It's pretty interesting work.

This slide summarizes the work our program has conducted over the past 20 years that it's been in existence. We've executed 46 agreements and leases for sand. We're currently working on over a dozen projects that are in various stages of completion.

We've seen an increase in our workload along the Atlantic especially after Sandy. We've also seen an increase in request for OCS sand in the Gulf of Mexico, as well. We've conveyed over 92 million cubic yards of OCS sand and that's been used to restore over a 256 miles of coastline.

We also work with our environmental studies program to fund and conduct studies that better inform our decision making in management of OCS Resources.

Other slide shows our active and completed projects. Environmental documents for our projects can be found on our marine minerals program web page and the link is shown at the bottom of the slide.

Some of our Sandy related projects include Long Beach Island, New Jersey. We executed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Army Corps, Philadelphia District and in New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection on July first for seven million cubic yards of sand.

That's the largest agreement that we'd issued along the Atlantic today and that sands are going to be used to restore 11.5 miles of shoreline along New Jersey.

That's enough sand just to give a context; it's enough sand to fill, basically five Empire State Buildings. That's a lot of sand.

Another project is NASA Wallop Flight Facility, we executed in an agreement with the Army Corps Norfolk District and NASA for one million cubic yards for nourishment of the shoreline after Sandy.

Project construction is scheduled to start this week some time, I believe. There are over $1 billion of assets on Wallops Island that sits just behind the beach launch pads and all kinds of infrastructure.

We also issued a Memorandum of Agreement for Sandbridge Beach in Virginia for over two million cubic yards of sand, an agreement with Brevard County for 2.4 million cubic yards of sand.

We just received a request from Duval County last week for 1.4 million cubic yards of sands and these are all Sandy related projects.

As I mention before, we received $13.6 million from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act and we're using this funding in four general areas.

One is the identification of new potential OCS Sand Resources under a broad agency announcement. That's basically a procurement opportunity that we issued back in March and this is an approximate $5 million effort.

We're also working with a 13 Atlantic Coast States on Cooperative Agreements to evaluate existing data and determine each state's future sand needs.

Today we've executed agreements with six states including New York and New Jersey and the agreements with the remaining seven states are in various stages of completion but we're looking to have all the agreements executed within the next few months.

We are also conducting Stakeholder Outreach, which I'll describe in a little bit more detail in a few minutes. Then Jeff will describe our environmental monitoring efforts, which total approximately $3 million bucks.

Under our broad agency announcement, we are securing a single contractor to collect geophysical and geological information to identify potential new sand resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.

We received proposals on June 2nd, and we expect to execute a contract in the next couple months. The study area extends three to eight nautical miles offshore, and it reaches from Maine down to Miami, Florida. The work will include reconnaissance, as well as site specific level surveys.

We're going to have two rounds of cooperative agreements. As I mentioned we're working with 13 states right now in cooperative agreements.

We'll have two rounds. The first round, which we're working on now, the states are going to be reviewing existing data and assessing future needs.

The second round is going to be focused on the analysis and evaluation of our broad agency data that's going to be collected, so we'll be engaging the states in that effort too.

With Stakeholder Outreach, we're conducting Regional Sand Management Working Groups.

We have four groups established along the Atlantic Coast. For each working group we conduct in-person meetings and webinars. We invite federal, regional and state and local partners, and we discuss project issues and potential data needs in the region.

We actually have one scheduled for tomorrow with the States of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

We're also looking to manage offshore sand resources in a more regional manner. Currently we're working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps, Jacksonville District, on a Regional Use Agreement for the five counties along Southeast Florida.

There are very limited sand resources in federal waters off these counties, and there is a need to establish a regional framework instead of addressing needs on a project-by-project basis.

This is the Historic Sand Resource Evaluation work we've done over the past 20 years, coupled with the new data from the broad agency announcement, will help us to develop a comprehensive inventory of sand resources available in the Outer Continental Shelf.

This will allow us to better manage these finite resources.

I'm going to let Jeff talk about the environmental monitoring efforts, real interesting stuff that we've got going on.

Jeff Wikel: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you all also, for the opportunity to come here and tell you a little bit about the work that we do.

Today, most of the Post-Hurricane Sandy planning efforts, they set a really ambitious agenda about resilient communities and about a resilient coastal landscape, one that's sustainable.

To accomplish this goal, we anticipate the folks will be coming to BOEM to access OCS resources. Jeff had mentioned that it's important to build beaches, to enhance dunes, to support coastal wetlands and other ecosystems.

Some of that material will come from navigation channels, some of it will come from the nearshore or the inner shelf. Some in fact, will have to come from the OCS, just because there is not sufficient sand resources in proximity or the environmental effects on retaining these resources are too adverse.

In the current framework, there is a tendency to focus on the surveyable portion of the coastal landscape to the exclusion of the submerged coastal and marine system.

We believe at BOEM, that there needs to be a more integrated approach for regional setup management and regional ecosystem management. It should be a cornerstone of coastal resilience. Although, we should envision what we like our coast to be like, we have to realize that coast by itself doesn't exist absent the important resources in the marine environment.

This not only includes identifying where sand is and where it is likely to be used, but how we can strategically access that sand and mange it, especially the environmental impacts. Really, how are we going to use it?

In that framework, the state of the inner shelf and the environmental resources are equally important, and they deserve attention. To that end, we must define what resilience means in the marine ecosystem. We must assess that resilience, and we have to manage it. We manage it through mitigation and adaptive monitoring. Really, at the heart of good coastal resiliency planning is environmental monitoring.

In order to understand a system's resiliency and its capacity for cover, we have to also appreciate the nature of exposure. What are the impacts that are likely to happen in that environment? What are the system's responsibility?

Through the department, BOEM is investing about $3 million dollars on three different studies, that involve environmental monitoring, but look at different aspects of a system's vulnerability or of its exposure to that system, its resiliency or its capacity for recovery.

The first one is strongly linked to the bureau's tangential efforts to map and identify sand resources. The various sand sources as previously described are used to locate these resources to determine their volume, their quality, but of course sand in the marine environment isn't consequence free.

It can lead to detrimental effects to marine life, mass communication between marine mammals. It can lead to other certain behavioral effects. We have to be very cognizant of that.

The very first study that we're pursuing in close coordination with the US Geological Survey, the Coastal and Marine Geology Program, and NAFCE of the US Navy, is to look at some of these what we call "high-resolution sound sources," and really in close proximity, figure out how those sound sources are operating, how loud they are, what is their frequency characteristic, what are their beam patterns look like.

This is a really complicated and developing field. These sound sources are really important to understand, and you have to understand what they're doing at the source.

We anticipate working with USGS and Navy to do some controlled studies in the lab, in lakes and other controlled environments, as a phase one. Then we're going to take that out into the real world, and then look at how sound propagates in the environment and make a lot of very precise measurements.

The next two studies I'm going to talk about really though are at the heart of assessing resilience. They're focusing on the resilience of schoal environments, schoal habitats, which are the principal targets for drudging on the Outer Continental Shelf.

These studies consider exposure, vulnerability, all aspects of resilience, including recovery. We've partnered with again, the Navy and NAFCE, as well as the University of Florida, to fund two studies. One is looking at the natural habitat associations of fish with some schoal features offshore of the Coast of Florida.

The companion or parallel study is looking at the function and recovery of those same communities, fish communities, but also expanding that to look at a complete ecosystem context considering the fiscal dynamics of the system. But other communities from phytoplankton and zooplankton, all the way up to highest level consumers in the food web, which in this case can be sharks and marine mammals.

I will say that shoal habitats are quite unique. They provide important habitat for recreation fish species, commercial fish species, sea turtles, and a variety of marine life. This habitat is presently believed to be important because of its relationship to foraging and reproduction and spawning activities. However, despite that the actual ecology of these habitats and their ecosystem is actually poorly understood. We have a general sense of species composition, the abundance, the diversity, but we're not really sure how it all works together.

Why we're working in Florida -- this would probably be a surprise to many people -- is post hurricane Sandy, there's actually been 20 different projects funded by the disaster relief appropriation act. Along the Atlantic coast, despite the obvious devastation in New Jersey and New York, there was actually quite a bit of severe erosion along the entire stretch of Florida as hurricane Sandy passed up the coast.

These two studies will do several things. First, they are going to look long term at the physical, biological, geochemical, biochemical, recovery resilience of these systems so that we can understand how these habitats that are dredged are important to the communities, the fisheries communities and the trophic structure or the food web. How energy moves through the system from the prey all the way through the higher level consumers.

This is a challenging task because many of the communities are transient despite some of the lower prey communities being resident. At the end of the day we're trying to create a big picture of trophic interaction between the prey items and their consumers and better understand the food web. Believe it or not this has not really been done. Most of these studies that are parallel studies are only done for a year or two.

We've already committed to do this for at least three years. We're hoping to do this for 7 to 10 years with supplemental funds through our environmental studies program to really create an integrated picture of how these shoal habitats function.

One of the unique aspects of this study is we'll be focusing on the response in the habitats that are actually being dredged but we'll be comparing that to naturally occurring habitats and those habitats that are not modified by anthropogenic activities. However, one of the unique aspects of these shoal habitats is that they tend to be in pretty shallow water, so they are physically dominated. When storms passed there's a lot on the sea floor, so the communities that are there already tend to be quite adapted to disturbance.

It becomes a real challenge to differentiate from naturally occurring phenomenon as well as those that may be caused by dredging, so you have to set up a very careful experiment that can provide for controls on the natural changes.

One of things we will be looking for will be the quantity and quality of the elements or the components of the food web. There may be what we call bottom up changes. When we change the nature of the sea floor different biological communities may come back and take control over those communities and that may instigate a bottom up cascading effect.

Where the changes in the bottom in the prey base results in changes in the consumers or correspondingly there may be a top bottom change where you may... the principal consumers may decide to leave the area because the prey base is not suitable. It's not satisfying their energetic needs.

As I mentioned, we are trying to take a really close look at the differences between dredged areas and those areas that are non-dredged and we have to do this in a really complete context. We have to consider geological, oceanographic, biological, biochemical, biogeochemical components and all components of the biological system need to be studies from the primary producers, the phytoplankton and the zooplankton really things that you generally can't see all the way up the food web to the principal consumers.

Those are keystone fish species like drum, sharks, things at the higher trophic level. A really robust sampling methodology is called for in this situation. The approach that we are using here is called a before after control impact, so we look at both the dredged and undredged areas before dredging activities occur. We look at it during dredging activities and we look at it long term, after those activities have occurred. We do that same thing off of a control site. In this image here, what you see is the study area off of the central coast of Florida.

That's Cape Canaveral and down at the bottom you see two black boxes. Those are basically the proposed areas with the location actually shows telemetry of where we tag fish and as the fish go by those receivers, it gives us a sense of movement. You get a sense of the scale of what we have to study even though we are only taking probably making a 10 percent footprint change down here, but we have to study this whole regional system to get a sense of how variable and dynamic the ecosystem is.

Like I mentioned, we're doing a whole suite of observations from mapping what the sea floor is like, looking at changes in sediment type, sizes of bed forms, we're looking at how waves and currents may be altered, how that corresponds with sediment transport, doing fish trawling, video work, telemetry. We are catching fish, looking at what they are eating, not only what species they are eating, but basically how they assimilate carbon and how the prey base serves as a bioenergetics to those higher level trophic species.

At the end of the day, we're going to take all this information. We're going to put it into a bioenergetic model that will be looking at how in some that ecosystem is working and what the sensitivities are, what it is vulnerable to, what makes it resilient, apt or not apt for recovery. We're really excited about this work. This is really state of the art and unprecedented in this country.

That was the last slide. I did want to acknowledge our partners in DOI for their contributions to all of this, certainly their help in advocating for us to get funding to do this important work. I'd like to acknowledge the team, some team members back at BOEM who without their great work, we really couldn't have achieved what we have achieved to date. Dr. Jen Coverson, who's been responsible for a lot of the environmental monitoring work off of Florida.

Stan Lobak, who is working with USGS and Navy on the acoustics work. Jeff Waldner, who's been working with the states on our geological research. Jen Rose who has been doing the same with the broad agency announcement in order to identify sand resources. There is a host of others. Doug , Megan Butterworth, Mike Minor, Dr. Mary Boatman, Coline Finnegan, and Joe who have been key and instrumental for our success so far.

Thank you so much to those folks in DOI for providing this opportunity to tell you a little bit about what we do.

Malka: We're going to open it to questions.

Malka: I've never seen gratitude like that before.

Malka: Any questions in the room. All right.

Male Audience Member: Actually I have three if you don't mind or is that unfair?

Malka: No.

Male Audience Member: The first one is do you guys get involved in judging the merits of the restoration projects to receive the sand or are you just involved process of evaluating the effects of providing it?

Jeff Reidenauer: I can take a first stab at that. We are part of the core's project development team, so we do get involved with the project in the planning phases, but primarily we convey sand. We convey the resources and the executing agreements and leases.

Male Audience Member: Do you charge for it or is it free?

Jeff Reidenauer: It is free for federally funded projects. If a private entity comes that's a different story.

Male Audience Member: Then you've made references to areas where the sand is scarce. Do you have some methodology of two projects come in at the same time and you've only got enough sand for one of them?

Jeff Reidenauer: That's an interesting question. I don't think up to this point we've had to deal with that, but that's one of the issues down in southeast Florida that I mentioned. There is a real lack of resources right off of Broward and Miami Dade counties. They look to get their sand resources further up the coast like St. Lucy county and so yeah, that's why we're looking to manage the resource in a more regional manner. So yes.

Malka: Any questions from the Internet?

Jeff Wikel: I would also touch on his first question that we also the environmental review process to really get a lot of stakeholder input into different alternatives that are considered under our project, so in some situations there may be an alternative for it and harder engineered solution, or even a different solution besides beach nourishment, so the NEPA and the environmental consultation process generally provides that framework to get those different sort of competing ideas for a given project.

Female Audience Member: I just have a question for the environmental monitoring and do you have the timeline for it?

Jeff Reidenauer: Sure. We started the whole effort started last August. Right now we have funding in place for three years, so that will take us basically through 2016, roughly that timeframe. We do have an environmental studies program that have shown a lot of support for this and we tend to work with our environmental studies program like I said to take us out 7 to 10 years, because we feel like that's really the timeframe that you need to understand an ecosystem, especially one that itself tends to be regularly disturbed on a repeated basis.

In order to differentiate between or give attribution to what may be anthropogenic versus natural, we really have to have that window of time. But we did like I said. The collection efforts have been going on since last fall and we are starting to get some of the initial results. We've been catching a lot of finetooth sharks and black tipped sharks as well in that area that's been quite profound.

Male Audience Member: Very interesting presentation. Not knowing much about sand, you mentioned that sort of all sand is not all created equal. There are different kinds of sand, so I was wondering within if you are doing habitat restoration. I don't know if you've got examples or something in terms of do different types of wildlife or habitats require different sands given the plant and other communities there and how does that factor into the work that you guys do?

Jeff Wikel: That's a great question and I could give you probably a million different answers to that, but I'll give you just an example. For example, one thing that we look at is grain size, the mineral composition and color along the Florida beaches, because all those characteristics are really important to nesting sea turtles.

If you have the wrong composition or it's too coarse or there's maybe different kind of minerals that changes the color that it actually becomes too hot, it can really affect success of nesting sea turtles. There's all sort of examples as you move along the coast, as you move through different ecosystems.

A completely different example is along the coast of Louisiana where we do a lot of marsh restoration, marsh creation projects. We're actually generally not moving sand. We're maybe moving muddy sand, because that creates a better platform for the native vegetation, and often the bird communities that use that as nesting and foraging habitat.

Male Audience Member: I was wondering just what percentage of BOEM people are out in the field versus contractors, something along those lines.

Jeff Reidenauer: In regards to this program, BOEM doesn't actually get involved in the construction of these projects. We more play a review or regulatory role. The actual Marine Mineral Program staff at BOEM...

Jeff Wikel: About 10 or 12...

Jeff Reidenauer: about 10 people...

Jeff Wikel: Including the Gulf of Mexico, so it's not very huge.

Jeff Reidenauer: ...with a lot of valuable part-time assistants. Our scientists, though, do participate in the environmental research and the resource research. On occasion they're out in the field collecting data or they're doing site visits or if there's a dredge on site they may go and participate in the inspection of equipment.

Malka: Questions from the Internet.

Male Audience Member: Has there been any public participation at the local level as to sand nourishment, and if so what types of participation have there been?

Jeff Reidenauer: Yes. At the local level we've engaged local partners in our sand management working groups. We invite local participants, cities, townships, that type of thing, to our sand management working groups. That's one way they get involved. I think, as Jeff mentioned, too, through the NEPA process there's also local involvement.

Malka: Another Internet question.

Male Audience Member: Do you folks deal with any fresh water coastal standards?

Jeff Wikel: Not typically. We're not dealing with any effluent or other standards, generally speaking.

Male Audience Member: Do you have the figures for approximately how much of the overall sand from beach re-nourishment comes from state waters versus OCS?

Jeff Wikel: I don't think that we have exact statistics, but I would venture a guess. At this point it's probably about in any given year maybe 10 percent from the OCS, about 90 percent...

Jeff Reidenauer: I'd say that's about right.

Jeff Wikel: ...from state or navigation. But what's interesting about that is BOEM can make a unique contribution. Sediment from the OCS is typically a net gain to the coastal system because they're not physically or dynamically connected. Usually the beach and the near shore, and we're far enough off shore that generally there's not draw-down from the coastal system all the way to the OCS.

The unique perspective that we can bring is that we're adding to the sustainability and the geomorphic integrity of these projects because we're adding sediment to the system rather than just moving sediment around that's already in the system, whether it's coming from the near shore or river channels or inlets.

Malka: Any questions in the room? Then I'm going to save one for myself. I'm curious if these are not permanent solutions. Even as you move from offshore to onshore, aren't you eventually going to have to redo it? There is not a permanent stabilization for these beaches through sand.

Jeff Reidenauer: No, you're absolutely right. Many of our projects are re-nourishment projects. They have a certain number of years cycle that they go through. You're absolutely right. These aren't permanent solutions.

Jeff Wikel: That's what makes it a fascinating public policy problem. For many perspectives it's throwing good money after bad, or bad money after good, however you want to interpret it. But most of these projects, at least in an economic window of consideration, this still makes sense to do this given the amount of infrastructure that is often being protected or the ecosystem services that that environment is providing.

Many people also conceive beach nourishment as a finite solution. It's actually never intended to be a finite solution. It's meant to be sacrificial in many regards, so that the beach or the wetland or whatever the ecosystem is that is supporting infrastructure service, so that itself doesn't disappear. I guess the best analogy is a lot like an airbag in a car. The airbag is there to prevent other, more costly damage.

Jeff Reidenauer: Yeah, that's a good example. Like the NASA Wallops Island project that I mentioned on the one slide. They came to us for over three million cubic yards of sand, and they finished construction I think it was in August, right before Sandy. If that wasn't there, they would have sustained significant damage to the $1 billion of assets on the island. Then they've come back to us for another one million cubic yards of sand. It did exactly what it's supposed to do.

Malka: One from the Internet.

Man 1: We have a comment from our colleagues at USGS. USGS has just launched iCoast. Did the coast change? This is the name of a crowd-sourcing app. They're looking for volunteers to classify aerial photos of the coast. USGS hopes that the iCoast project will play a role in coastal resilience by educating the public.

A follow on...oh, has disappeared. Thank you.

Malka: Any other questions from the room? Thank you very, very much.

Jeff Reidenauer: Thank you .

Damage from Coastal storms along the Atlantic coast is causing communities to look to federal waters for sand to restore their shorelines and coastal habitats. Severe beach erosion resulting from Hurricane Sandy highlighted a need for BOEM to develop a comprehensive inventory of sand resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). BOEM, using funds it received from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, is identifying and evaluating potential offshore sand resources along the Atlantic coast. BOEM's Marine Minerals Program (MMP) is working with coastal states to manage sand resources in a regional context, taking into consideration multiple uses of the seafloor and potential environmental impacts from dredging. Join us for a discussion on efforts to make the Atlantic coast more resilient.

Jeffrey Reidenauer, BOEM Chief Marine Minerals Branch
Geoff Wikel, BOEM Chief Environmental Coordination Branch