Neah Bay response tug starts first full year of service July 1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 30, 2008
08-179

OLYMPIA – On July 1, 2008, the Neah Bay emergency response tug will begin an unprecedented tour of duty for Washington – providing 365 continuous days of service to help prevent oil spills in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and along Washington coastlines.

“While the Strait of Juan de Fuca is one of the busiest shipping lanes on the West Coast, the area also is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems in the country,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire.  “A major oil spill in the strait or along our coast would be an unimaginable catastrophe. The state-funded Neah Bay tug is a critical tool to help us protect our region’s natural resources.”

Since 1999, state-funded response tugs stationed at Neah Bay have kept disabled ships from drifting onto rocks and causing major oil spills during the stormy winter months. The tugs have stood by or assisted 40 ships that were disabled or had reduced maneuvering or propulsion.

During the 2008 legislative session, Gov. Gregoire and state lawmakers earmarked $3.7 million for the tug and directed the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to contract for year-round emergency response tug service starting July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009.

In April, Ecology and Crowley Maritime Corp. (Crowley) agreed to extend the company’s existing contract to station a high-horsepower, ocean-going tug at Neah Bay for a year. The agreement marks the first time a response tug will provide a full year of continuous service.

Under the agreement, Crowley will receive $8,500 a day plus fuel costs. Ecology recently reached an agreement with the Makah Indian Tribe to install new electrical outlets and upgrade other infrastructure at the Neah Bay Marina where the tug docks.

“By providing power to the dock, we’ll be able to minimize fuel costs for the tug,” said Dale Jensen, who oversees statewide spill prevention, preparedness and response activities for Ecology. “It also will reduce the carbon footprint for the tug since Crowley won’t have to fuel and run standby generators when the vessel is docked.”

Crowley’s ocean-going tug Hunter will start service and remain on standby in Neah Bay until Gladiator, the tug the company has previously stationed at Neah Bay, completes its current contract to tow a ship located in the Gulf of Alaska to a safe port.

State Sen. Harriet Spanel, one of the strongest advocates for the response tug for the past 10 years, said that the current state level of funding is enough to keep the tug at Neah Bay for a year – until a permanent, stable funding source can be established.

“While the state money for a year-round tug is only for a single year of service, many of us in the state Legislature have long recognized the importance of having a tug permanently stationed at Neah Bay,” said Sen. Spanel. “On any day of the week, hundreds of cargo, fishing and passenger vessels as well as two or three oil tankers transit the strait. Since we face the threat of a major oil spill on a daily basis, we are working with our Congressional delegation to find a stable, long-term funding source for the tug to continue to keep this essential, proven resource.”

She said a major spill could severely hurt Washington’s fishing and shellfish industries, further endanger salmon runs, kill birds and marine mammals, ruin public beaches, and disrupt Washington’s economy.

There are nearly 9,000 oil tankers and cargo ships transiting in and out of the strait annually. Cargo ships can carry more than two million gallons of fuel oil and tankers can carry up to 36 million gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products.

Beaches in the Olympic National Park, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, three national wildlife refuges, tribal lands, and San Juan Island shorelines are directly at risk for major oil spills since they are adjacent to the shipping route.

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Media contacts:
Curt Hart, media relations, 360-407-6990; cell 360-480-7908
(char461@ecy.wa.gov)

Chip Boothe, spill prevention manager, 360-407-7465 (cboo461@ecy.wa.gov)

For information about response tug history: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/response_tug/tugresponsemainpage.htm

Ecology’s Web site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/

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~ by fredfelleman on July 3, 2008.

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