Flirting with oil spills.

I would like to commend the editorial board of the Journal of the San Juans for the May 9th editorial, “Flirting with disaster every day.”  Having championed the creation of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the Neah Bay rescue tug since 1989 it is particularly heartwarming to read the Journal’s support for the tug despite its location over 70 miles from San Juan County.  Clearly a major spill in Juan de Fuca Strait would have significant consequences to the San Juans including its human and aquatic inhabitants.

After numerous studies and close calls the Neah Bay tug has more than proven its utility with 34 responses to vessels in distress since its winter deployments began in 1999.   It should no longer be up to the taxpayer to fund the tug.  Fortunately Senator Cantwell is poised to introduce legislation this year to have all ships that file vessel response plans with the Coast Guard to pay to have a tug in Neah Bay year round.

County residents are encouraged to write to her office in support of such efforts.  However, I would not stop there.  While Rosario Strait is the primary corridor for tankers calling on our State’s four largest refineries, Haro Strait is the Gateway to two of Canada’s largest ports and their Deltaport container terminal on Point Roberts just got permits to double their capacity.  Even more concerning, during
17 years since Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90), on the heels of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Canadian Government has failed to establish escort requirements for tankers operating in their waters.  This is despite Section 3005 of OPA 90 in which Congress urged the “Secretary of State to enter into negotiations with the Government of Canada to ensure that tugboat escorts are required for all tank vessels with a capacity over 40,000 deadweight tons in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in Haro Strait.”

Please urge Senator Cantwell to require the maritime industry to keep a year round tug in Neah Bay and to ensure that tankers plying Haro Strait are subject to the same laws as those plying Rosario Strait.

Fred Felleman

~ by fredfelleman on May 24, 2007.

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