ON THE WATERFRONT: Oil spill drill continues international partnership

THE COAST GUARD conducted an international oil spill drill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. According to a U.S. Coast Guard press release, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian coast guard conducted an oil spill response drill in conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology and the B.C. Ministry of the Environment in the contiguous waters off British Columbia and the United States in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Wednesday.

Oil spill response equipment was deployed in the vicinity of Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay. The drill used a harmless, non-toxic dye in the water to engage responders as they simulated on-water recovery operations with vessels, booms and skimmers.

The purpose of the drill was to test the activation process for the Canada-United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan, Pacific Annex (CANUSPAC Annex) and to test moving response assets and personnel across the U.S./Canadian border. The CANUSPAC Annex is a proactive response plan designed in preparation for the possibility of incidents requiring international response.

“These types of joint exercises are a great way to test our preparedness to respond, build partnerships, test bilateral communications and improve our contingency plans,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Marshall, the Marine Environmental Response Branch Chief for the Coast Guard’s 13th District.

Pollution response crews with cleanup equipment from both nations were a part of the drill along with cooperating oil spill response organizations and federal and state agencies. The drill included aerial assets and vessels. Wildlife experts were on hand to monitor for marine species in the area.

Earlier this week, the tug John Blix towed the deck barge Z Big One into the west end of Port Angeles Harbor where she off-loaded a couple hundred bundles of softwood into the boom field.

Thursday morning, Milbanke II moored to the Port of Port Angeles’ Terminal 3. She is a 273-foot long barge that is 79 feet wide and was dockside to take on most of the chips that were stockpiled on Marine Drive next to Westport Shipyards facility.

This barge was about twice as big as prior barges that have come dockside for chips. With this in mind, Dan Shea, operation supervisor, had Jesses Waknitz, environmental manager, use his well-regarded computer skills to make scale mockups of the barge and loading equipment which Shea and Gary “Crash” Osterberg, longshoreman foreman, used to determine the most efficient loading scenario.

Approximately 3,000 tons of chips came out of the stockpile on Marine Drive which came from Interfor, and a combined total of about 4,200 tons of chips came from P.A. Hardwood and Hermann Brothers.

The barge left Port Angeles bound for Howe Sound, B.C., at 3:48 a.m. Friday.

Platypus Marine hauled Western Gull out of the water this week. She is a 72-foot oil skimmer that is owned and operated by Marine Spill Response Corporation, the largest oil spill response company in the United States.

The skimmer does its work by opening up its large bow doors, then the vessel eases into a spill and a rubber belt submerges oil beneath the surface of the water. It is then contained within a collection well and pumped to onboard storage tanks. It can be deployed in near-shore, coastal or open waters. MSRC has three of these vessels staged in the Puget Sound area — Neah Bay, Anacortes and Bellingham.

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David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain’s mate who enjoys boats and strolling the area’s waterfronts and boat yards.

Items and questions involving boating, marina and industrial activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome. News announcements about boating groups, including yacht clubs and squadrons, are welcome as well.

Email [email protected] or phone him at 360-808-3202.

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