Marine advocate wants tug at Neah Bay all year long

PI Northwest Briefing

Friday, May 5, 2000


The state Legislature set aside $1.65 million to keep a rescue tugboat at Neah Bay next fall and winter, but the program’s most vocal advocate says a tug should be there year-round.

“I think it’s important to have protection there this winter, but my bottom line is I don’t know a good season to have a spill,” said Fred Felleman of the environmental group Ocean Advocates.

Marine and coastal life is at its most vibrant and most vulnerable in the spring and summer, Felleman said.

The shipping industry says it’s not necessary to post a tug at Neah Bay — the northwesternmost point of the Lower 48 states at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the United States and Canada.

The 126-foot tugboat Barbara Foss has been stationed there under a $7,500-a-day U.S. Navy contract since December — paid for by various funds.

“I think this is a trophy tug,” said Rich Berkowitz, Pacific Coast director of Transportation Institute, which represents U.S.-flagged vessel operators.

Accident-prevention and spill-response developments over the past 10 years, plus a computerized tug-tracking system, leave the vessel with little to do, Berkowitz said.

A tug escort is not required for tankers in the western strait, though two tugs are required to escort the ships east from the Dungeness Spit.

During the five months the Barbara Foss has been at Neah Bay, it has responded to one emergency call, in February, said Stan Norman, spill-prevention section manager for the state Department of Ecology.

It was dispatched to help the 500-foot cargo ship Clipper Arita, whose engine had died. The cargo ship’s crew completed repairs before the tug arrived.

“Last year we had a dozen incidents,” Norman said. “This year we had just one.”

P-I Staff and News Services

~ by fredfelleman on May 5, 2000.

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