Review of Planning and Response Capabilities for a Marine Oil Spill on the U. S./Canadian Transboundary Areas of the Pacific Coast Project Report

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The Stakeholder Workgroup Review of Planning and Response Capabilities for a Marine Oil Spill on the U.S./Canadian Transboundary Areas of the Pacific Coast Project Report

Sponsored by the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force

December 7, 2010

Comment Deadline: January 21, 2011

The Stakeholder Workgroup Review of Planning and Response Capabilities for a Marine Oil Spill on the U.S./Canadian Transboundary Areas of the Pacific Coast Project Report

Executive Summary (to be developed)
Introduction 2
Section 1: Command 28
Section 2: Planning 77
Section 3: Operations 132
Section 4: Logistics 159
Section 5: Finance 183
Appendix I: Project Work Plan 203
Appendix II: Project Workgroup 207
Public Comment Instructions

Considering the size of this document, you are encouraged to focus on the sections of specific interest to you, although your comments on the entire document are more than welcome!

The deadline for comments on this report is January 21, 2011.

Please download this report and save it as a Word document. Then make your comments and edits using a “Track Changes” process and submit them by email with your revised document as an attachment to If you have questions, please contact Jean Cameron at the email address above or by calling 503-392-5860.

Cover art: The cover graphic on this report was originally designed for the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force by Sutton Design Ventures in 1996. Native art and Orcas are common to both U.S./Canadian borders addressed in this report.
Public Comment Draft



The CANUSDIX and CANUSPAC Transboundary Areas

  1. The Alaska/British Columbia Transboundary Area: CANUSDIX

The following brief overview of the CANUSDIX transboundary area was developed from a review of web based information sites and contacts with agencies in the region:

GEOGRAPHY: The Dixon Entrance is a strait about 80 kilometers (50 miles) long and wide in the Pacific Ocean at the International Boundary between the U.S. state of Alaska and the province of British Columbia in Canada. The Dixon Entrance is part of the Inside Passage shipping route. It forms part of the maritime boundary between the U.S. and Canada, although that boundary is disputed. The so-called A-B Line (approximately 54°40'N) - which marks the northern boundary of the Dixon Entrance - was delineated during the 1903 Alaska Boundary Treaty. The meaning of the line remains in dispute between Canada and the United States. Canada claims the line is the international maritime boundary, while the United States holds that its purpose was only to designate which islands belonged to which country and holds that the maritime boundary is an equidistant line between islands. Territorial fishing disputes between the countries remain today as the United States does not recognize the A-B Line for purposes of seafloor resources or fishing rights and has never shown the treaty boundary on its own maps. As noted on the map above, the U.S./Canada border continues up the Portland Canal.

WEATHER: The area has a maritime climate with significant precipitation, cooler summers and warmer winters than generally found in the interior portions of region. Rainfall can reach 200 plus inches annually in some areas, although topography has a strong influence on the level of precipitation in a given area. Dixon Entrance is subject to strong winds and storms throughout the year with the worst storms generally arriving in the winter.
TIDES: Tidal ranges for the area are 10 to 20 plus feet and strong currents are often present.
DEMOGRAPHICS: The whole of CANUSDIX area would be considered remote. There are two main population centers in the region, Ketchikan in Alaska (with a total population slightly greater than 14,000) and Prince Rupert in British Columbia (12,815 people according to Statistics Canada, 2006). There are numerous small coastal villages throughout the region, including small fishing villages or subsistence villages. Distances between communities are substantial and there are few roads in many parts of the region.
ECONOMICS: The major employers in Southeast Alaska are government, fishing, services, and tourism. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s January 2010 report “Alaska Economic Trends” a slight decrease in jobs was expected for the mining and timber sectors. A 2.8% decrease in jobs was predicted for the Leisure and Hospitality industries as a result of an expected loss in cruise ship passengers. Government (federal, state and local) is the largest employer in the region; a slight overall loss of jobs was predicted. The fishing industry was predicted to stay steady for 2010.

Small communities along the Canadian border rely on fishing, some logging, aquaculture and tourism. The City of Prince Rupert currently relies on the fishing industry, the port, a local paper mill, and tourism. Prince Rupert's sheltered harbour is the deepest ice-free natural harbor in North America.

The communities of Hyder and Stewart face one another across the U.S./Canadian border at the head of the Portland Canal, a 70 mile-long fjord which forms a portion of the U.S./Canadian border. Hyder is just 2 miles from Stewart, British Columbia and is the only community in southern Alaska accessible by road. Stewart, on the Canadian side, is also located at the head of the Portland Canal, which is ice free throughout the year and on Highway 37A, a paved access to the interior of the Pacific Northwest. Important to Stewart’s economy are the industries of forestry and mining. The community is promoting the development of a wood processor and is endeavoring to cultivate bulk cargo for its port.

HISTORICAL and CULTURAL FEATURES: The Dixon Entrance area is home to a large population of Alaska Natives. Several small native communities are located in the area as is the only federal Indian reservation in the state of Alaska, the Annette Island Reserve. The Reserve, and the Village of Metlakatla, was home for First Nation peoples that migrated from Prince Rupert to the area in the late 1800’s.  The entire area is rich in native culture and there are numerous archeological sites both native and non-native throughout the region. Prince of Wales Island, Alaska is home to a branch of the Haida, known as the Kaigani Haida. The Queen Charlotte Islands which lie on the south side of the Dixon Entrance were named Haida Gwaii by the Haida people in the 1970s, and members of the Haida nation maintain free access across the Hecate Strait.

In British Columbia, Prince Rupert lies at the heart of the traditional territory of the Tsimshian First Nation. This territory is bordered by the traditional lands of the Gitxsan, Nisga'a, Haida and Heiltsuk people, many of whom today make their home in Prince Rupert as well as in their traditional communities along the coast. These First Nations have rich traditions, including unique art and architecture. For countless generations these communities presented the familiar line of post and beam cedar houses along the forest's edge in sheltered bays, with magnificent canoes drawn up on the beach and tall crest poles telling the story of each house and family. Indeed, the Northwest Coast First Nations are best known for their monumental art with towering totem poles in Prince Rupert and throughout the region. Based on seasonal harvests of numerous marine species, consumption, sharing, trade and feasting of traditional foods by the Northwest First Nations is inextricably linked to a healthy marine environment. South of the Dixon entrance lie the Haida Gwaii ("Islands of the People")1, more commonly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands; they consist of two main islands (Graham Island in the north and Moresby Island in the south) plus approximately 150 smaller islands, separated from the British Columbia mainland to the east by Hecate Strait. Some of the islands to the south are protected under federal legislation as the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. There are also several provincial parks, the largest of which is Naikoon Provincial Park on northeastern Graham Island, which is close to the CANUSDIX area.

THE ENVIRONMENT: The shore area consists of a temperate rain forest with exposed rocky shorelines and steep, heavily forested lands coming down to the water. The forest is primarily coniferous and both marine and terrestrial wildlife is plentiful throughout the region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports there are no listed endangered species in the SE Alaska area, but two bird species - the Kittlitz’s Murrelet and the Yellow-billed Loon - are designated as candidate species for listing as endangered, but are not yet listed. NOAA reports that Fin and Humpback whales as well as Steller Sea Lions are listed as endangered marine mammal species in the Dixon Entrance area.
Located in the southernmost part of Southeast Alaska, Misty Fjords National Monument extends from Dixon Entrance to beyond the Unuk River and provides the northern border of the Portland Canal. The Monument is an unspoiled coastal ecosystem with extraordinary geological features including fiords, steep sea cliffs, active glaciers and natural canals. These features provide rich and fertile marine and freshwater environments. Wildlife, waterfowl, and bird populations are diverse and nearly every ecosystem in Southeast Alaska is represented within Misty Fiords. Misty Fiords provides habitat for all five northeastern Pacific species of salmon as well as grayling, Dolly Varden char, and brook, rainbow, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Nearly half of all king salmon spawning and rearing streams in Southeast Alaska are located within Misty Fiords. Most wildlife common to southeast Alaska may be found in Misty Fiords, including bald eagles, brown bears, black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves, mountain goats, beaver, mink, marten, wolverine and river otter. Porpoises, whales, sea lions, and seals are often sighted in the nearby ocean waters.

The Haida Gwaii islands are also home to an abundance of wildlife, including both the largest and smallest subspecies of black bear as well as a subspecies of stoat. Black-tailed deer and raccoon are introduced species that have become abundant.

SPILL RISKS: Risks of oil spills in the area are varied and may be season-specific. Spill risks in the Dixon entrance are exemplified by the sinking of the Lee Wang Zin on December 25th, 1979. The vessel was carrying iron ore loaded in Prince Rupert and was headed for Japan. It capsized in British Columbia waters during high winds with the loss of 30 crew members and spilled 200,000 gallons of bunker fuel. Bad weather and the remoteness of the location prevented any offshore cleanup. Over 350 miles of shoreline were impacted and oil was even identified months later as far north as Prine of Wales Island in Alaska. By the end of April, 1980, 585 bbl of oil had been removed; cleanup cost estimates range from $3,570/bbl to $8,970/bbl.
Approximately 100 to 150 million gallons of oil product enter Southeast Alaska at Dixon Entrance annually via barge. There are between 400 and 500 large cruise ship sailings into Southeast Alaska during the summer tourist season; each of these vessels carries up to 700,000 gallons of fuel oil on board. Approximately 12 log ships enter Southeast Alaska annually with fuel capacities of up to 500,000 gallons of fuel oil; these freight vessels may be using heavy oil as fuel rather than the lighter diesel oil. Two freight barge lines have sailings twice/week and carry a variety of hazardous materials including explosives, lube oil, propane and up to 10 ISO tanks of 5,000 gallon capacity with aviation gasoline, diesel and gasoline.

In British Columbia, tankers using the Dixon Entrance to access the Port of Kitimat are currently bringing in condensate that is transported overland to the oil sands operations in Alberta. There are proposals to construct pipelines to carry the condensate to Alberta and bring crude oil back to Kitimat for export by tanker, which would increase the tanker traffic. There are also proposals to construct an LNG/LPG terminal and expand bulk cargo capabilities, since Kitimat is the deepest and closest inland port on Canada's Northwest Transportation and Trade Corridor. Canadian National Railways, which serves Kitimat, recognizes that - with minor rail modifications - Kitimat could grow to serve substantial North American import and export markets, including the U.S. Midwest.

The Port of Prince Rupert is the northwestern most port in North America linked to the continent's rail network. Located on the Great Circle Route between eastern Asia and western North America, the port is the first inbound and last outbound port of call for cargo ships on that Route. In addition, passenger ferries operating from Prince Rupert include both BC Ferries and Alaska Marine Highway ferries. The Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal is co-located with the rail terminal and offers connections to inland British Columbia and to the rest of the continent as well.

The Port of Prince Rupert handled 12,173,672 tonnes of cargo in 2009, up 15 per cent over 2008 volumes. The Container Terminal had a 45.9 per cent increase over 2008. On the bulk cargo side of the business, grain volumes jumped 35.1 per cent in 2009. The Port of Prince Rupert also experienced increased cargo volumes for logs (79.6 per cent) and wax (30.8 per cent). Coal volumes were down 14.2% in 2009 compared to 2008. In the cruise business, passenger traffic was also down 46.8 per cent, although Prince Rupert had 31 cruise vessel visits in 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, container traffic was up 87.3% and total tonnage increased 72.8% compared to the first three months of 2009. Long term development plans call for growth in the bulk, auto, and general cargo terminals.

As noted above, the town of Stewart at the head of the Portland Canal is promoting bulk cargo development for its port, which could further increase the vessel traffic along the U.S./Canadian border.

In summary, increased vessel traffic seems likely in the Dixon Entrance and Portland Canal area, as a result of the marriage of deep harbors with access to inland rail and roads. Increased bulk shipping, port expansion activities in Prince Rupert and Stewart, increases in LNG and LPG shipping, cruise ship traffic and connections at Kitimat to oil production in Alberta are all likely to combine and increase the risks of oil spills associated with vessel traffic. Such risks are amplified by the remote nature of the area and weather-dependent logistics.

  1. The Washington/British Columbia Transboundary Area: CANUSPAC

The following brief overview of the CANUSPAC transboundary area was developed from a review of web based information sites for the region:
GEOGRAPHY: According to the CANUSPAC Annex, it applies to the internal and navigable waters of both the U.S. and British Columbia, as well as to the waters off the Pacific Coast from the Canada/U.S. border in Boundary Bay, through the Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and then to position: 48-29-39.11N, 124-42-34.69 W to position: 48-29-38.11 N, 125-00.00 W, and to position: 48-04-00 N, 126-10-35 W. See the Diagram above from the CANUSPAC Annex.
Boundary Bay is situated on the border between British Columbia and the State of Washington. Boundary Bay is bounded on the north by the municipality of Delta. Along the eastern shore is the City of Surrey; further south-east are White Rock and the Semiahmoo First Nation's reserve in BC and Blaine in Washington State.
The Canada/U.S. border runs through the southern part of the Strait of Georgia, which lies between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. The Canadian Gulf Islands and the U.S. Juan de Fuca Islands mark the southern end of the Strait of Georgia. The main channels to the south are Haro Strait and Rosario Strait, which connect the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Haro Strait, often referred to as the Haro Straits because it is really a series of straits, is one of the main channels connecting the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca; it separates Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia from the San Juan Islands of Washington State.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca extends east from the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to Haro Strait, San Juan Channel, Rosario Strait, and Puget Sound. The Pacific Ocean boundary is formed by a line between Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island, Washington, and Carmanah Point (Vancouver Island), British Columbia. Its northern boundary follows the shoreline of Vancouver Island from Carmanah Point to Gonzales Point, then follows a continuous line east to Seabird Point, British Columbia, Cattle Point (Washington), Iceberg Point and Point Colville (Lopez Island) and then to Rosario Head on Fidalgo Island. The eastern boundary runs south from Rosario Head across Deception Pass to Whidbey Island, then along the western coast of Whidbey Island to Point Partridge, then across Admiralty Inlet to Point Wilson (Quimper Peninsula). The northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula forms the southern boundary of the strait. In the eastern entrance to the Strait, the Race Rocks Archipelago is located in the high current zone half way between Port Angeles Washington State, and Victoria, BC.

WEATHER: The Puget Sound region experiences two primary wind regimes. The most significant occurs in late autumn, winter, and early spring, when southerly winds prevail, mostly in advance of approaching low pressure/frontal systems moving eastward across the Pacific Ocean. Sustained winds of small craft velocity are common; gale velocities may occur in advance of the stronger low pressure/frontal systems. Storm force winds are only rarely observed. The second wind regime occurs in late spring, summer, and early autumn when the prevailing direction in central and southern Puget Sound is still south to southwesterly, but velocities are much reduced. A high wind event occasionally occurs during the winter season when a very intense cold front moves southward into northern Washington State. When the polar air mass behind the front reaches southern British Columbia, it flows southwestward through the Fraser River Valley and accelerates toward Bellingham. Gale force northeasterly winds and very cold temperatures are not uncommon with such an event. The cold air normally flows southwestward across the San Juan Islands toward the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula.

In general, wave heights in most of Puget Sound are limited to approximately six feet with gale force winds.

Wave motion in the waters of Puget Sound is limited by the complex shape of the geography of the Puget Sound basin; straight line distances are relatively short, so wave generation is restricted due to lack of fetch.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca does not have the fetch limit restriction for east-southeasterly and west-northwesterly winds, however. Because it is exposed to the generally westerly winds and waves of the Pacific, seas and weather in Juan de Fuca Strait are, on average, rougher than in the more protected waters inland. Wave motion at the mid-point of the Strait can exceed 15 ft. for some direction, wind speed and duration combinations.

A wet marine West Coast climate predominates in western Washington; it is mild for its latitude due to the presence of the warm North Pacific Current offshore and the relatively warm maritime air masses. The region has frequent cloud cover, considerable fog, and long-lasting drizzles; summer is the sunniest season. The western side of the Olympic Peninsula receives as much as 4064 mm (160 in) of precipitation annually. Portions of the Puget Sound area, on the leeward side of the Olympic Mountains, are less wet, although still humid.

The Olympic Mountains to the south are a major influence on weather patterns in western Washington and the San Juan Islands in particular. Most oceanic weather fronts approach the state from the southwest. The Olympic Mountains pose a formidible barrier which forces the warm moist air to rise, cool, and form precipitation. In doing so the mountains literally wring the clouds dry, so by the time the weather systems reach the San Juan Islands they have little moisture left in them. Consequently, only 18-20 inches of rain falls in the average year in the San Juan Islands. San Juan Islands summer weather patterns typically include sunny skies, calm winds, and moderate temperatures. The inland sea, with its cool water temperature, acts as a heat sink which prevents the air from getting too hot or too cold. 

TIDES: The Puget Sound region - including the Strait of Juan de Fuca - experiences a semi-diurnal tide cycle, with two high tides and two low tides commonly occurring during an approximate 25 hour period. At Everett, in the northern part of Puget Sound, the normal diurnal tidal range is approximately 11.1 ft, with an extreme range of 19 ft (-4.5 ft to +14.5 ft). At the Port of Seattle in the central part of the Sound, the normal diurnal tidal range is approximately 11.4 ft, but can range as high as 18 ft (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992). The normal diurnal range at Bremerton in the central part of the Sound is approximately 11.7 ft, with a maximum range of approximately 16 ft. In Hood Canal, the normal diurnal tidal range is approximately 11.1 ft, but it can range as high as 16 ft.
DEMOGRAPHICS: The major population centers on the Canadian side of the border are around Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia and are closer to the Boundary Bay, Georgia Strait and Haro Straits portion of the international border area.
The largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, Vancouver ranks third largest in the country and the city proper ranks eighth. According to the 2006 census Vancouver had a population of 578,041 and its metropolitan area exceeded 2.1 million people. Metro Vancouver includes thirteen of the Province’s most populous municipalities, including the cities of Vancouver, North Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley and Richmond. Vancouver is a cosmopolitan, international city with a robust ethnic blend of citizens of European, Asian, and Aboriginal descent.

Key population centers on Vancouver Island are concentrated across the Strait of Georgia from the Vancouver metro area and include Victoria and Nanaimo. Nanaimo had a population of 78,692 people in the 2006 Canadian Census. The Greater Victoria region has a combined population of 330,088 according to the 2006 census. The Canadian Census ranks Greater Victoria as the 15th largest metropolitan area in Canada, by population. The combined population of the municipalities, unincorporated areas and Indian Reserves in the region is 329,433. This includes Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Sidney and Sooke.

The western shores of Vancouver Island that border the Strait of Juan de Fuca are not so densely populated; the larger towns include Port Renfrew (190), Ucluelet (about 1500) and Port Alberni on Barkley Sound (21,282).
The major population centers on the U.S. side closest to the CANUSPAC border are on the mainland (north of Seattle and along the Olympic Peninsula) as well as on Whidbey Island and the San Juan Islands.
On the mainland north of Seattle are Bellingham, Mt. Vernon, Marysville and Everett. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Bellingham's population was 80,055 in July 1, 2009. The boundaries of the city encompass the former towns of Fairhaven (now home to the southern ferry terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System), Whatcom, Sehome, and Silver Beach. Mt. Vernon’s population was estimated to be 29,984 in 2006. The 2006 estimate for Marysville was 31,938 and 98,514 for Everett.
Oak Harbor is the largest town on Whidbey Island, with a population of 19, 795 in the 2000 census. As a whole, Whidbey Island had a population estimate of 58,211 in 2000 census.
The 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimate for San Juan County, Washington – which incorporates all the San Juan Islands, was 15,484. The San Juans are highly dependent on tourism, so the population increases during the milder months of the year. The larger towns include Lopez, Port Stanley and Richardson on Lopez Island; Deer Harbor, Doe Bay, Eastsound, Olga, Orcas and West Sound on Orcas Island; and Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.

Although not directly adjacent to the border, the Seattle metropolitan area of Washington, if not all of Puget Sound, is likely to be affected economically by a transboundary oil spill (see information below regarding vessel traffic for Puget Sound ports) and possibly environmentally if tides and currents carry oil south into the Sound. In addition, the Seattle media market would probably take a keen interest in any oil spill in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, or off the Washington Coast. The 2006 census estimate for the City of Seattle was 582,454. The 2006 estimate for Tacoma was 196,532 and for Olympia was 44,645.

The Seattle metropolitan area includes the City of Seattle, King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County within the Puget Sound region. The U.S. Census Bureau defines the metropolitan area as the Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area, with an estimated population of 3,344,813 on 7/1/08, making it the 15th largest United States Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Moving from east to west, the population centers along the northern and outer coasts of the Olympia Peninsula include Port Townsend (8,334) and Port Angeles (18,397) along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hoquiam (9,097) and Aberdeen (16,461) on Grays Harbor. There are also a number of towns associated with Federally-recognized tribal lands along the outer coast, including Neah Bay (794), La Push (372), Queets (no specific data available) and Taholah (824).
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