A state-funded emergency response tug will be stationed at Neah Bay, ready to prevent oil spills 365 days a year under a contract extension agreement signed today between the Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Crowley Maritime Corporation (Crowley).The extension agreement marks the first time that a response tug will be stationed at Neah Bay for a full year of service. During the 2008 legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire and lawmakers provided $3.7m for emergency response tug service. Under the contract, Crowley will station a high-horsepower, ocean-going tug at Neah Bay from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009.
“Every year, thousands of vessels carrying billions of gallons of oil make transits through the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” said Gov. Gregoire. “If we had a major oil spill in the strait, the costs to our environment, our economy and our quality of life could be astronomical. We must do all we can to protect our pristine shorelines. Keeping a response tug at Neah Bay year-round helps fulfill that mission.”
Gregoire said that the current state level of funding is enough to keep the tug at Neah Bay for a year – until a permanent, stable funding source can be established.
Crowley took over the state contract to keep a response tug ready at Neah Bay during winter seasons beginning Jan. 1, 2007, but public funding ran out in early March 2008. Under the extension, the maritime company will provide a year of tug service at the same rate set in the 2007 contract – $8,500 a day plus fuel costs.
“Crowley is pleased to be part of the Department of Ecology’s and our state’s effort to protect our marine environment,” said Scott Hoggarth, general manager of marine services for Crowley in Seattle. “This proactive measure affords our communities peace of mind that the pristine waters of Washington state and our coastal neighbors will continue to be protected. Crowley appreciates the partnership and support of the Makah Indian Tribe in this endeavor as well. It is gratifying to be part of this environmentally conscious measure, taking a preventative position when it comes to protecting our coastal and inland waters and shorelines.”
Since 1999, state-funded response tugs stationed at Neah Bay have kept disabled ships from drifting onto rocks and causing major oil spills during the stormy winter months. The tugs have stood by or assisted 40 ships that were disabled or had reduced maneuvering or propulsion.
Since 2002, state lawmakers provided Ecology $1.4 million per year with the goal of providing about 200 days of response tug service.
“The state Legislature has long recognized the importance of having a tug stationed at Neah Bay,” said state Sen. Harriet Spanel. “Many of us have understood the need for and have worked for funding for a year-round tug for some time. The state money for a year-round tug is only for a single year of service. We are working with our Congressional delegation to find a stable, long-term funding source so we can continue to keep this critical, proven resource.”