Coast Guard Bill – Huge win for protection of the Strait!

-Update – Chris Dunagan goes into detail on this bill. This is really significant and is one of the most important pieces of legislation to help us protect our coasts since the Magnuson Act. Read the overview at

http://pugetsoundblogs.com/waterways/2010/10/10/coast-guard-bill-covers-safety-and-budget-issues/

President Obama is expected to sign a sweeping authorization bill that reorganizes U.S Coast Guard operations, increases maritime safety rules and calls for improved oil-spill prevention and response in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

This bill has been blocked for over a year, so this is great news. It is a great win for everyone who fishes, or makes a living off people enjoying the Straits. Thanks are in order to Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray, as well as all the other people behind the scenes who pushed this, like Fred Felleman,  People For Puget Sound, The Makah Nation, and many others. This has been a major effort for over 10 years. It is sad that it took losing the Gulf to get this over the hump, but we are there. Now to the House for a final vote. This also will help better protect fishermen who have the most dangerous job in America.

9/30 Seattle Times
Bill OK’d that overhauls fishing-industry safety, protects Sound
Seattle Times staff
The U.S. Senate late Wednesday night unanimously approved a Coast Guard authorization bill that includes a major overhaul of federal fishing-industry safety laws, and measures to strengthen efforts to prevent Puget Sound oil spills.
The bill was expected to soon be approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the President Obama for signing.
“It has been nearly four years in the making to get this important legislation through Congress,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., who chaired a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the legislation. “This bill establishes new safety laws on oil-spill prevention and fishing vessel safety so that we can continue to operate in these pristine waters in a safe and effective manner.
…. The oil-spill provisions will include measures to expand oil-spill response capabilities around the entrance of Strait of Juan de Fuca and increase the role of Indian tribes in the response effort. The legislation will result in oil-spill response equipment, including booms and barriers, positioned along the strait.
Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel each year through Puget Sound and carry about 15 billion gallons of oil to Washington refineries, according to Cantwell.
More at
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013032351_webcoastguardbill.html

No, Double Hull Tankers Do Not Ensure ‘Total Safety’

While this is an old story from last June, it’s only now come to our attention, and needs being shared.

From our friends north of the border on the Tyee Opinion. The whitewash from the Canadian government  and the oil industry on tanker safety in the Straits.

While 65 oil tankers traversed Burrard Inlet last year,  it’s not clear how many single hull vessels currently traverse Burrard Inlet. Is BC providing escort tugs for all these tankers?

While tankers in the US need escort tugs, freighters have never needed them. And what’s missing in this analysis is that in 2012 escort tugs come off US  tankers (not freighters) in the US, as the Magnuson act only protected us from single hull tankers. The fact that an incident hasn’t yet happened is cold comfort given the disasters in Alaska in 79, the huge number of tanker and freighter sinkings since 79, and even San Francisco’s calamity just last winter. Canada’s lackluster investigation and lack of transparency on the sinking of a ferry a year or so ago shows that the government cannot be trusted.

The issue of Canada protection for the Straits is huge. Canada has never taken adequate protection of the Straits, relying on the US to protect the whole waterway. This whole ‘special meeting’ seems like a whitewash, as just last November the Canadian government and Coast Guard was caught unawares as a freighter that was anchored at Mayne Inlet in Plumper Sound drug anchor and narrowly avoided a disaster. Captain Brown’s statement in the following article  is total PR BS, frankly, and the kind of whitewash that we have seen over the years from countless other officials of industry and the government of many countries just prior to major spills.

Last winter, as I and a few other small news organizations watched the Plumper Sound event unfold, Canadian officials were in the dark, unaware, and had to be contacted by US officials who were alerted to the issue by citizens. There were 1.2 million gallons of fuel on this freighter!  It was over a day before the Canadians had a clue, and it was not reported on any major news outlet in Canada for at least 72 hours! So excuse me if I’m underwhelmed by the government official and B.C. Chamber Stewart pronouncements….If a major disaster occurs, it will affect us as well as Canada.

Let’s be clear, a major tanker or freighter spill in the Straits or the Straits of Georgia can undo hundreds of billions of dollars of environmental work, and decades of protection efforts on our marine habitat. We cannot let PR doublespeak like this go unchallenged. There is an agenda here of trying to expand the tanker traffic for the Alberta Tar Sands pipeline for sales to China. This is all about money, not environmental safety.

more on that old story here:
https://olyopen.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/update-on-canadian-tanker-grounding/

Here is the current crop of governmental bs as appropriately covered by the Tyee Opinion

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9/27 The Tyee Opinion
Contrary to industry reassurances, Vancouver faces increasing risks of oil spill.
By Mitch Anderson
Is it safe? That was the question posed last July when Mayor Gregor Robertson convened a special meeting of Vancouver city council to discuss increased oil tanker traffic through the treacherous waters of Burrard Inlet.
Vancouver has quietly become <http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/06/03/VancouverOilTankers>  a major oil port, as the capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby has recently been scaled up to 300,000 barrels per day. Every week several oil tankers squeeze through Second Narrows at the highest tides with less than two metres of water under the keel. These shipments have doubled over the last two years.
At the July meeting, Captain Stephen Brown of the B.C. Chamber of Shipping assured the city that these transits were happening in "total safety" and that "We have yet to have a pollution incident from a double hull tanker."
More at
http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2010/09/27/DoubleHullTankers/

Huge Humboldt Squid (NOT) found in Discovery Bay!

Geoduck farmer Peter Downey called to tell me that he found an 11 foot long Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas) washed up on his beach on the 26th. Actually, it appears that it may have been a robust clubhook squid, according to some Stanford marine biologists that corrected me!  The squid is not usually found around these waters, but one was caught about a year ago, if my memory serves me well. Downey has a commercial scale, so he weighed the thing in at 59 lbs (!).  Peter took the squid to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. No idea what the center will do with it, but it’s the largest they’ve seen. Photos by Peter.

Dept of Ecology Sends Oil Spill Equipment to Gulf – NW oil spill safety net frayed

A fallout of the Gulf fiasco is now that our state is sending both Navy oil skimming vessels, temporarily lowered our oil spill preparedness standards,  and sent essentially our  entire stock of boom and dispersants to the Gulf as well as barges that could be used in the event of a spill here.  This seems like a very bad idea. While personnel can be rapidly deployed, the notion of emptying our supplies and lowering standards is exactly the wrong idea. Accidents and mechanical failure are what this is all about. You have to be prepared for accidents. By emptying our stocks for this futile effort in cleaning up the Gulf, it leaves us more vulnerable to it happening here. We have this beautiful environment here because we didn’t lower our standards or enforcement, we raised them! The Gulf is in this predicament because they have allowed themselves to be controlled by the oil industry and it’s cheerful, “can’t ever happen here” lobbyists and spokespeople, and regulators who lowered the standards!.  We need to not let our guard down. The tragedy in the Gulf is not going to be changed one bit by our sending all our supplies there, but it could be a fiasco for us.

Update – 7 July: It appears that DOE is also considering  sending our rescue tug to the Gulf. I am checking today with DOE on this and other issues.  It appears that neither the Port of Port Townsend, nor county officials were alerted in advance, nor asked if this was a concern to them locally. Discussions appear to be under way with the State, the Feds, our elected federal officials, the Navy, the Tribes and others. There should be clarification on this coming later today, or tomorrow.

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OLYMPIA – Navy Region Northwest will soon send five oil-skimming vessels to help with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, pending receipt of Washington Department of Ecology’s (Ecology) official notification on Tuesday, July 6.

Oil-skimming vessels collect oil spilled on water. The Navy earlier sent two of its nine skimmers as well as several smaller work boats from Washington to the Gulf.

Ecology regulates two Navy oil-transfer facilities in Puget Sound. The Navy will keep its two remaining Puget Sound skimmers at their regular stations.

Ecology and the Navy have agreed that the Navy will maintain standing measures, and add interim measures, to help prevent and be sufficiently prepared for any spills that might occur in Washington while the skimmers are helping the Gulf response. These standing or interim measures include:

  • Continuing the requirement for all Navy vessels to be pre-boomed while in port, even if the vessel is not being fueled.
  • Restricting fuel transfers over water to daylight hours – unless there is a documented necessity to support an operational mission. Non-daylight transfers must be approved by a Navy on-scene spill coordinator.
  • Following established Navy directives, orders and other measures that already apply to fuel transfers while in port. These include enhanced staffing levels during all fuel transfers, to include having supervisory personnel on deck and watching from topside to prevent spills. It also means ensuring fueling crews are fully qualified in the Navy’s spill prevention and response procedures.
  • If an oil or hazardous material spill occurs, the Navy must ask the U.S. Coast Guard to activate the services of the Marine Spill Response Corp., National Response Corp. or other private spill-response contractors in Washington to assist with response equipment and personnel. The Coast Guard has confirmed this action will be taken, if requested. Both Ecology and the Coast Guard have agreed to adopt an aggressive, enhanced response posture until the Navy equipment returns from the Gulf.
  • Updating the Navy’s state oil-spill contingency plan that outlines the response actions it will take to minimize environmental impacts from a spill.

“We believe these spill prevention and preparedness measures will help ensure Navy is ready and capable of mounting a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response to any spill that might occur while their skimmers are out helping with the Gulf spill response,” said Ecology Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency announced they had lowered federal oil-spill preparedness standards, including cleanup equipment, to get more resources – especially skimming vessels and other skimming systems – to the Gulf.

The new temporary measures require industry and entities like the Navy to maintain enough equipment to respond to a much more modest but more likely spill of 2,100 gallons.

Washington state law, however, requires the oil industry and other entities that transfer large amounts of fuel over state waters, to be able to respond to a worst-case spill scenario. In some instances, that means oil-handling facilities must be prepared to respond to spills involving millions of gallons of oil and other petroleum products.

Jensen said Ecology has received numerous requests by private spill contractors to send equipment to the Gulf. Ecology quickly established a process to track and evaluate each request from the regulated community. The state agency also is tracking what its federal response partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have sent.

Ecology has let experienced response personnel, the state’s entire stock of about 15,000 gallons of chemical dispersants and 1,400 feet of fireproof oil boom, several shallow water barge systems, and more than 50,000 feet of oil containment boom go to the Gulf so far. See how Washington is helping the Gulf spill response.

Jensen said, “We are doing all we can to help our neighbors in the Gulf while preserving a core level of spill response readiness in Washington. It also means, however, that everyone must be extra vigilant about keeping oil out of Washington’s waters. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the helm of an oil tanker or if you’re a weekend boater. We need your help in preventing all oil spills, regardless of size.”

A 2004 draft study commissioned by Ecology estimates that if a major spill were to occur in Washington waters, the state could suffer nearly $11 billion in economic losses, and more than 165,000 jobs across the state would be adversely affected, along with the environmental damage.

On May 10, Ecology and the Marine Spill Response Corp. held unannounced oil-spill response drills in five critical locations in Puget Sound to test the company’s agreement with Global Diving & Salvage Inc. to temporary backfill for more than 25 experienced responders as well equipment MSRC had sent to the Gulf. The call-out test was successful.

Major action by U.S. Senate to help Puget Sound

We still need to get this bill passed. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a vote. – editor

July 1, 2010

OLYMPIA – The Federal Government today took a major step to augment the monumental collaborative efforts already underway to restore Puget Sound by 2020.  The Puget Sound Recovery Act, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell and co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, is designed to strengthen cleanup of the Puget Sound. It won the approval Wednesday of the key Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW).
“As the second largest estuary in the nation and the core of our region’s identity and prosperity, it is absolutely critical to restore and preserve this important body of water for generations to come,” Senator Cantwell said. “With the passage of the Puget Sound Recovery Act, the ongoing cleanup of Puget Sound will benefit significantly from the creation of a federal grant program to support a more comprehensive effort and complement the great work of the Puget Sound Partnership. I am proud that with the committee’s passage, we have taken a significant step toward restoring Puget Sound and protecting everything from animal habitats, to tourism, to our precious environment and our regional economy.”
"Yesterday’s passage is an important step in giving Puget Sound the protection it deserves," said Governor Gregoire. "I applaud Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray for their leadership and continued support as this bill moves forward."
“This is a big step forward,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We are on the path to move from the kids’ table to the big table with the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay in terms of the federal government’s commitment to our national treasure – Puget Sound.”  
The Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and a handful of other “great water bodies” have enjoyed formal Clean Water Act “program” status for years, ensuring consistent federal attention and funding.  
Achieving this federal status was one of the goals that Governor Gregoire and the Washington State Legislature had in mind in 2007 when they created the Puget Sound Partnership and mandated the creation of an Action Agenda to restore Puget Sound by 2020.  That plan was finished in December 2008 and has been widely supported.
Recognizing Washington’s leadership, the Puget Sound Recovery Act takes a new approach that would provide the national attention and strong federal involvement, up to $90 million per year, while supporting Washington State’s leadership and existing stakeholder effort.
“Federal support will be tethered to the Action Agenda’s priorities and therefore result in greater coordination and leverage for both State and Federal efforts.  This codifies our Action Agenda’s citizen-based effort.  I applaud Senators Cantwell and Murray for this achievement” said David Dicks.  
Bill Ruckelshaus, chairman of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council and the first head of EPA, said “We in Washington State greatly appreciate the efforts of this committee to fashion legislation that will put the federal government on a course to play a major supportive role in the restoration of Puget Sound.  Congressman Dicks and Senators Murray and Cantwell have already helped get a major increase in federal funding, this bill will take the Puget Sound Partnership’s efforts to the next level.”
The bill now moves to the Senate floor. 

Dungeness Crab Mortality Due to Derelict Pots

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

People at the Crab Mortality PresentationJeff June, Natural Resources Consultants, is the derelict fishing gear removal field manager for the Northwest Straits Foundation. Jeff presented results from the recent study of Dungeness crab mortality from derelict pots supported by the Stillaguamish Tribe and Northwest Straits Foundation.

Jeff reported that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that 12,193 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound. Each lost crab pot without escape cord kills approximately 30 crabs each year until deterioration. Jeff provided several ways to prevent crab pot loss:

· Don’t fish in marine transit zones

· Weight your pots so they don’t move in high currents

· Make sure line is long enough for the depth you are fishing

· Use multiple floats in high current areas

· Don’t set pots too close together

· Always use escape cord – 120 thread count is regulation but a better rule of thumb is to use 1/8 inch diameter cord.

· Report lost pots

A recent change in regulations allows enforcement agents to ticket crabbers for transporting illegal pots on marine waters, instead of only ticketing for actively fishing illegal pots. Jeff explained that there are some areas of concentrated accumulation of crab pots that will be targeted for this enforcement.

Click here for a pdf copy of the presentation.

Crab Management in Washington State

From the NW Straits June Newsletter

Rich Childers, Shellfish Manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently gave a presentation on the management of Puget Sound’s Dungeness crab fishery. This is one of the most complex fisheries in the world to manage, involving 17 tribes and three natural resource agencies. This year the state will assess a $10.00 penalty for failure to report crab catch, in an effort to more accurately estimate the recreational harvest. Rich reported that the crab fishery is sustainable, and currently all marine areas except for South Hood Canal have the highest catches on record.

Click here for a pdf of Rich’s presentation.

If you are interested in crabbing at all,you should read Rich’s great presentation.

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