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One thought on “New bill would strengthen state’s oil-spill response

  1. Hats off to Rep Rolfes!

    I have come to believe that by training and equipping resident fishers (emphasizing those that don’t go to AK) in a so called “vessel of opportunity system” we can make more of an improvement (cost-effectively) than by requiring more “dedicated” equipment.

    The reason for this that there are fishermen who live throughout the sound and are familiar with the waterways. They are also highly motivated to protect that which earns them their living. What’s most important is the speed with which the gear can be deployed from the time of notification and that the gear that is deployed is appropriate for the operating environment.

    While much has been said about how little new development there has been in spill response since the Exxon Valdez, the fact of the matter is that if the US simply required spill responders to use the same equipment that is built in Norway and used in the North Sea oil fields (see NOFI) we would be well ahead of the game.

    The folks in Prince William Sound rely heavily on fishermen deploying NOFI’s “current buster” boom that not only can be dragged through the water 3-4 times faster than regular boom (increasing encounter rate) but it also stores the oil in a cod-end that can be skimmed out. The only NOFI boom in Washington is owned by the Navy and they deployed theirs to the Gulf.

    Having said that, I do believe there is still room for technological improvements especially for rougher sea states we find in the Straits and coast. We are fortunate to have some excellent shipbuilders in the NW who could certainly design better equipment if there was a financial incentive to do so. This could be accomplished by increasing the State’s response requirements as Rolfe’s is trying to do and by making R&D funds available as the Oil Spill Commission recommends.

    On thing needs to be done for sure and that is to revisit dispersant use altogether. The State and Coast Guard have given the industry credit for dispersant stockpiles at the expense of improving mechanical recovery equipment when we are still not even clear on the impacts or efficacy of dispersants.

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