Don’t expect smooth sailing on funding for the Neah Bay tug.
When the governor signed the tug bill into law last week, Washington state finally had a permanent source of funding for the emergency-response vessel. The industry will have to pick up the tab after one more year.
It was welcome news for those who are concerned that our pristine shorelines along the Washington coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca could be despoiled by a major oil spill.
The state has been paying for the tug, though funding has always rested on the Legislature finding money in the budget. This year, the cost is about $3.7 million.
So, after the bill was signed, I decided to look at the next steps. What will it take for industry to set up the funding mechanism, and what problems do officials see?
It appears the legislation is throwing salt on some old wounds within sectors of the industry — primarily the oil shippers versus the cargo shippers. See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.
There are more cargo ships moving through our waters, and each one carries fuel, so should they anti-up the majority of the cost? On the other hand, the risk of a major oil spill is more likely among those shipping major amounts of oil, so should they bear the greater cost?
Throw in extra factors for ships with double engines and double rudders, which decreases the likelihood that they will become disabled. Consider problem ships not covered by the legislation. What you have is the basis for some tough negotiations to divide the cost among hundreds of ships that transit through Washington waters.
I guess nobody said it was going to be easy. Since industry was to pay the cost, the Legislature wanted to keep the heavy hand of government out of it, at least for now.
To review the tug bill, its summary, legislative analysis and other information, go to the Washington State Legislature’s bill page. Another interesting document is a summary of Vessel Entries and Transits for Washington Waters – 2007 (PDF 147 kb) published by the Washington Department of Ecology.