Oil-spill response vessel now stationed at Neah Bay

Overnight success – 10 years in the making.  Fred

Article published Apr 12, 2008

By Jim Casey, Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — The oil skimmer Arctic Tern heas begun calling Neah Bay its homeport as the Makah reservation becomes a staging area for spill response on Washington’s outer coast.

Previously moored at the Port Angeles Boat Haven, the 73-foot diesel-driven craft will be captained by an officer of the Marine Spill Response Corp. and crewed by two Makah tribal members.

Chad Bowechop, ocean policy manager for the tribe’s new Office of Ocean Affairs, announced the move Wednesday as a milestone for the tribe.

The vessel began its station Thursday.

“It’s a pretty red-letter day for us,” Bowechop said.

The Makah, he said, long have worked with the Coast Guard and the nonprofit spill response corporation to build credibility.

“This is a real good example of tribal government working with industry to improve oil spill protection standards,” Bowechop said.Guarding vital resources
“What it represents to us is two things:

“We’ve prioritized oil spill prevention and response as a top issue.

“We’ve been able to use our treaty rights [to take fish and marine mammals] as the form to draw attention as a resource trustee as opposed to just a stakeholder.”

The Makah are heavily reliant on their fisheries.

“It’s essential for us to protect our treaty resources,” Bowechop said.

Richard Wright, spill response corporation vice president for the Pacific Northwest region, said the Arctic Tern is a self-contained skimming vessel.

“It has a collections system that advances through the water, and with booms out to either side corrals the oil,” he said.

Transferring the vessel to Neah Bay won’t reduce spill protection in Port Angeles, Wright said.PA still protected
“We have many other skimmers in Port Angeles already,” he said, notably the Park Responder.

Should another vessel be needed, he added, the Arctic Tern is only five hours away.

Skimmers also are stationed in Tacoma, Seattle, Everett, Anacortes and Bellingham, he said, and MSRC has a cooperative arrangement with its Canadian counterpart.

Vessels similar to the Arctic Tern are stationed at Anacortes and Bellingham, Wright said.

Seattle environmentalist Fred Felleman, a watchdog of oil spill dangers on the outer coast and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, also applauded making Neah Bay the oil spill response staging area between Grays Harbor and Port Angeles.

For more information on the Marine Spill Response Corp., visit http://www.msrc.org.

Meanwhile, the Makah continue to press Congress for federal funding for a year-round rescue tug at Neah Bay.

The state Legislature passed year-round funding that may prove too little for 365 days of operation.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, has included provisions for tug funded by the shipping industry.________
Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at jim.casey@peninsuladailynews.com.

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~ by fredfelleman on April 13, 2008.

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