• Published: November 15, 2018
Preplanning and training are critical steps towards any successful fast water boom deployment.  Learning how to read water will help evaluate conditions and determine what boom strategies are possible. Putting out boom in rivers is difficult at best. Boom is heavy and moving water is deceptively powerful, especially when exerting its force on a section of boom placed in the current. Here are a few tips.
Spill Response Training
Fastwater Boom Drill on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
Get Organized
Carefully evaluate the site, current, hazards, potential anchors, and conditions before deciding what strategy to implement. This is a critical step and allows responders to give input regarding what is the safest, most efficient approach. Identify the anchor locations and verify distance with a range finder.
Outline the plan and delegate specific positions which usually include; upstream and downstream safety, anchor teams, boom team, boat teams, and collection teams.
Make sure everyone is clear on the plan and their role. Now is the time to ask questions and raise concerns. Review communications options and challenges. While anchor teams start building anchors the boom team does everything possible to stage the boom so it can be deployed as efficiently as possible.
Booming Tip: Build bomb-proof anchors that set a steep angle for the boom
Select suitable anchor points, and build anchors that will hold up to the forces exerted by moving water. The anchor points should be positioned so that the boom is set at a steep (18-22 degree) angle to the current, and so that the downstream anchor is located in an accessible area for mechanical recovery of collected oil. Anchors must be constructed to withstand the forces exerted upon the boom and anchor lines without failing. Often times this requires building an anchor system with multiple points of attachment that is equalized to share the load of the boom.
Booming Tip: Keep it Simple
Whenever possible try to boom a section of river with as few anchors as possible. At WRI we try to avoid time consuming cascade systems in favor of simple single strand sets and less time consuming strategies that take advantage of new technologies such as boom deflectors and boom vanes. One collection set we frequently use places a pulley on the upstream anchor. Boom is staged on the opposite side of the channel and attached at the downstream anchor. A rope runs from the head of the boom through the pulley and back across the channel so a team can quickly pull the boom into position from shore. Another option is a High Line Trolley system. This simple system uses a line tensioned across the channel, paired with control lines from both shores, to easily move the head of the boom into position. We set up anchors, lay the boom along the shoreline and attach the downstream end before pulling the boom into position.
Booming Tip: Always pull the head of the boom across the channel.
When deploying boom in fast water, pull the upstream head of the boom across the channel after anchoring the tail on the near side of the river. By pulling the head of the boom across the channel, responders will be using the river current to help move the boom into place. Attempting to pull the tail of the boom across the channel after anchoring the head of the boom is extremely difficult at best, and most often impossible. This technique leads to a large “belly” in the middle of the boom segment, and can result in entrainment of oil midstream, rather than ferrying the oil to the near shore for collection.
Booming Tip: It’s better to be short than long.
If you start out with too much boom it will often result in a big belly or entrainment. We prefer to err on the side of being short with our boom and having an adjustable muenter hitch off of the downstream anchor.
Booming Tip: Anticipate Failure
If you are deploying boom in a new location, don’t be surprised if things don’t go smoothly at first. The most important factor is safety. Before putting the boom in the current check in with everyone and consider what might go wrong. What anchors might fail? Are ropes under enough tension to break? Are responders out of the line of fire? What is the back up plan? Slow down, be careful and don’t do something that could result in an injury.


“Whether you are a river-rookie or an experienced boater, WRI tailors their classes to what you need to learn in a fun and challenging environment. Their scenario based teaching approach creates an electric learning atmosphere where you feel like you are in actual river rescue situations. I would recommend them to anybody!”

Eric Giddens, Owner Kern River Brewing Company/1996 Olympic Kayak Team Member
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