Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Prince William Sound GRS Public Information Homepage

This website describes the process used to develop Geographic Response Strategies (GRS) to protect sensitive coastal environments in the Prince William Sound (PWS) Subarea. The PWS Subarea is defined as that area south of 63.30° North latitude, west of the Prince William Sound Subarea and east of the Cook Inlet Subarea, including adjacent shorelines out to the 200 nm territorial sea.

In March of 2002, a workgroup was formed to develop GRS’ for Prince William Sound. Participants include State and Federal resource trustee agencies and local spill response experts. Currently, February 2011, the workgroup is scheduling meetings to begin the process of selecting additional sites for GRS development. 

GRS are oil spill response plans tailored to protect a specific sensitive area from oil impacts following a spill. These response plans are map-based strategies that can save time during the critical first few hours of an oil spill response. They show responders where sensitive areas are located and where to place oil spill protection resources.

The PWS Subarea has been divided into five Response Zones, as shown in the map below.

This map identifies the PWS Geographic Response Zones. Click on a zone in the index map to view a detailed map of that zone. Text links to the zones are listed below the map.

To view the sites that have been developed into GRS in the Google Earth program or in a GIS program that can open kml files, download the following file: PWS GRS.kml

Index map of the Prince William Sound Subarea

Over the course of this project, the workgroup has selected 99 sites from the list of candidate sites for GRS development. An additional 20 sites were selected by the workgroup in February of 2010 in the Northeast and Southeast zones. These site were all surveyed in August by a survey team that visited the location. During this survey the team noted local conditions and designed strategies that would be protect the area in the event of an oil spill. The next step is to have a larger Tactics Group review the drafted strategies and make any necessary edits. Then the plans will be reviewed by the entire workgroup and approved for consideration for inclusion in the PWS Subarea Contingency Plan.

To see the GRS that were designed by survey team, go to the zone page and view the index map. Each of the selected sites is listed below the index maps with an accompanying map that displays the GRS that were developed. To see the entire list of candidate sites, consult the site selection matrix (61.9KB pdf). The site selection matrix and site selection key (28.5KB pdf) summarize the resources at risk for each site. The site selection process involves a consideration of environmental sensitivity, risk of being impacted from water borne spills; and feasibility of successfully protecting the site with existing technology.


The Prince William Sound GRS document consists of the following parts:

The PWS GRS Site Selection Process

The first step in the GRS site selection process is to identify candidate sites. Candidate sites have been identified based on a set of site selection criteria.

If funding permits, GRS may eventually be developed for all candidate sites. However, most GRS projects are carried out in phases, where a smaller group of sites (usually around 20) are selected for initial GRS development. GRS sites are selected on the basis of three major criteria:

  1. environmental sensitivity,
  2. risk of being impacted from a water borne spill; and
  3. feasibility of successfully protecting the site with existing technology.

Public comments are also considered during site selection, and additional sites may be selected by the workgroup based on this input. Once GRS site selection is finalized, the workgroup will then develop draft strategies for each site.

In Prince William Sound, the workgroups for each sub zone consider potential GRS locations based on the following criteria of environmental sensitivity, which are set forth in the Prince William Sound Subarea Plan:

  • Threatened and Endangered Species/Habitats
  • Marshes
  • Eel grass beds
  • Sheltered Tidal Flats
  • Sheltered Rocky Shores
  • Sea Otter Concentration Areas
  • Harbor Seal Haulouts
  • Sea Lion Rookeries and Haulouts
  • Large Seabird Colonies
  • Waterfowl and Shorebird Spring,Fall or Winter Concentration Areas
  • Eagle Nest Sites
  • Large Anadromous Fish Streams
  • Intertidal Salmon Spawning Areas
  • Hatcheries & Aquaculture sites
  • Herring Spawning Areas
  • Federal Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Natural Landmarks
  • State Refuges, Sanctuaries, and Critical Habitat Areas
  • Cultural Resources/Archaeological Sites
  • Intertidal Sites
  • Subsistence Harvest Areas
  • High Use Commercial Fishing Areas
  • High Use Recreational Areas

Public involvement is essential to ensure that the sites selected and the strategies developed reflect the environmental protection priorities of local communities, stakeholders, and resource users. The workgroup is seeking public input to ensure that everyone with a stake in Prince William Sound is made aware of Geographic Response Strategies and their importance during an oil spill response. If you have local knowledge about PWS or if you would like more information about Geographic Response Strategies please contact: dec.spar.grs@alaska.gov

You can learn more about Geographic Response Strategies by reading our Frequently Asked Questions.

This page last updated: July 1, 2012 by Nuka Research & Planning Group, LLC