The Draft Grays Harbor Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment has been released and public comment is now open.
In a release, the Department of Ecology says that they have been working with local, state and federal partners, tribes,and environmental groups since 2017 to develop a vessel traffic risk assessment for Grays Harbor. A draft report has now been released and is up for review.
The draft assessment identifies oil spill risks that may be “posed by commercial vessels, proposes actions to improve spill prevention, and assesses the region’s preparedness to respond to a spill”.
In the draft report, it looks at both existing facilities and risks with the proposed addition of a potash export facility in Hoquiam and the proposed expansion of the existing liquid bulk terminal.
In the executive summary of the document, it states that the goals of the Grays Harbor Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment were to:
- Assess baseline and changing oil spill risks from commercial vessels operating in Grays Harbor.
- Identify measures that could help reduce the risks of oil spills.
- Assess oil spill response preparedness.
- Identify baseline oil spill response capability.
A number of recommendations were made to update the current procedures at the port and prepare for the future.
“The total number of recommendations that resulted from the Hazard Identification process should not be interpreted as an indicator of the relative risk of an oil spill in Grays Harbor. Rather, the recommendations are intended to enhance safety measures already in place at the international, national, regional, and local levels.”
Some of these changes include
- Finding ways to increase communication between the commercial vessel community (e.g., port, pilots, vessel agents) and tribal, commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishermen.
- Consider whether gauges to measure currents around Grays Harbor would improve data and information for vessels and pilots.
- Consider establishing a marine firefighting subcommittee.
- Consider developing a port-wide firefighting plan to cover facility and vessel fires.
“About 100 deep-draft commercial vessels call on Grays Harbor each year. A major spill here could risk harm to the local environment, economy, public health and cultural and historical resources, including nearby Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and valuable commercial fishing operations.”
DOE states that since the last major oil spill in the Grays Harbor area from the oil barge Nestucca in December 1988, significant changes have occurred in maritime safety and measures continue to be added “ to strengthen oil spill prevention and preparedness”
They say that while the port has an active Harbor Safety Committee and works to facilitate safe, efficient movement of ships into and out of the harbor, there is always more work that can be done to make oil transportation as safe as possible.
Public comment is being accepted on the draft report through Dec. 6, 2018.