NEAH BAY (June 8, 2005) — Oil spill response capability in Neah Bay just got better thanks to the Makah Tribe’s acquisition of a first-of- its-kind cleanup and containment equipment trailer and the training that goes with it.
“We are the first tribe in the Northwest to receive our own oil spill response trailer,” said Vince Cooke, environmental division manager for the Makah Tribe. “More than 15,000 vessels transit our waters each year. We have been hard hit by oil spills in the past. This improves our emergency response capabilities,” said Cooke.
Fifteen tribal members will be trained to use the contents of the trailer to respond to oil spills. Included in the 20-foot trailer are a variety of oil absorbent materials, safety gear for the crew and equipment to deal with oiled wildlife. The trailer can also be used as a command center for coordinating a spill cleanup.
Three spills from ships in 1972, 1988 and 1991 killed thousands of birds and fouled tens of miles of beach. These spills and the threat of more led the tribe to push for the state to station a rescue tug in Neah Bay from September through early spring. The tug helps assure that disabled vessels don’t run aground, fouling beaches and wildlife. Funding for the tug is assured through 2008.
“It’s especially important that we have as much response capability as possible in the summer when we don’t have tug coverage,” said Cooke. “With our own trailer, we don’t have to wait for the state Department of Ecology to authorize deployment of their equipment. It’s also helpful to be able to respond to smaller spills if a boat is sinking in the marina,” said Cooke.
A $134,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency paid for the trailer and training.
“I’ve toured the new double-hulled tankers. They are immense. It’s an eerie feeling thinking about what could happen if one of those develops a problem in our waters,” said Cooke. “We just have to keep doing what we can do to be ready and this response trailer is a part of that.”
For more information, contact: Vince Cooke, environmental division manager, Makah Tribe, (360) 645-3263; Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501, [email protected]