Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Georgia Strait Alliance launched the second phase of a new initiative to study the potential spread of an oil spill in the waters around southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf and San Juan Islands, and along the Kinder Morgan oil tanker route through the Salish Sea.
The environmental groups will be joined by high school students from the Gulf Islands Secondary School, who will drop hundreds of drift cards (small pieces of plywood painted bright yellow) in Boundary Pass and Haro Strait. This event is part of a larger study to produce a series of maps that will improve our understanding of the path oil spills might take and how far spilled oil could travel.
The cards will be dropped along the oil tanker route in locations where we know the risk of incidents are higher, and they will carry a simple message: this could be oil.
Members of the public are being asked to get involved in the project by staying on the lookout for the drift cards on local beaches and shores. Each drift card has a unique number identifying the exact time and location at which it was dropped. Those finding the cards will be able to help create maps of potential spill trajectories on by visiting a dedicated website, www.SalishSeaSpillMap.org.
This project is in response to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin its sixty year old Trans Mountain pipeline, which will result in a 500% increase in oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea. The study comes as BC and Federal Government documents are highlighting that we are not prepared for a spill, that liability cover is inadequate and that we do not know how to deal with diluted bitumen in the marine environment. Americans should be concerned as BC's oil spill preparedness lags far behind that of Washington state.
"The impacts from an oil spill anywhere in the Salish Sea could be devastating to ecosystems and communities on both sides of the border. We share one coastline, one ocean and one climate, and these are too precious to sacrifice for the sake of the fifty jobs in BC," said Alexandra Woodsworth, Energy and Shipping Campaigner at Georgia Strait Alliance.
The Salish Sea is a unique coastal environment, already under stress from pollution and climate change. It supports a huge variety of marine life, including wild salmon, endangered killer whales and hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds.
“The Salish Sea’s southern resident killer whales are already endangered. The very real threat to this small cross-border population of whales isn’t worth the risk for a project with so little benefit to the region. And all the spill kits in the world aren't going to help whales if they surface in the toxic fumes of an oil spill,” said Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.