Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed a memorandum of understanding with Rear Adm. Keith Taylor, commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District of the United States Coast Guard, that will allow both parties to work seamlessly in the prevention, planning and coordinated response efforts in the event of an oil or hazardous substance spill within the navigable waters of Washington state.
"Washington state is the most trade dependent state in the nation," said Gregoire. "Our ports provide the shortest shipping route to Asian markets from the lower 48 states - and because of our success, the number of ships using our waters is expected to dramatically increase during the next 10 years. Risk for a spill is substantial and as the traffic on our waters increases, so does the risk. While we have one of the best oil-spill programs in the country, we cannot afford to be complacent. This MOU reaffirms our commitment to protect and safeguard our waters."
Each year, more than 20 billion gallons of oil travel across and through Washington state waters. In the event of a major spill, it could cost Washington's economy as much as $11 billion and would jeopardize as many as 160,000 marine jobs.
"We have a shared vision to keep our waters safe and free from oil and hazardous substances," said Rear Adm. Taylor. "This MOU reaffirms the proactive partnership we have with the State of Washington to address existing and emerging challenges in preventing and responding to spills that impact our waters in the Pacific Northwest."
The partnership also creates an opportunity to engage with our Canadian neighbors to ensure that we have comparable spill prevention and response standards on both sides of the border.
The understanding will help build cooperative communications strategies, create stronger regional partnerships, effective public outreach, and continue to cultivate broad based public trust in the safety and security of our economy, region and maritime transportation system.
When marine oil and hazardous material spills occur, a rapid, aggressive, and well coordinated response and cleanup by the responsible party, federal, state, tribal and local agencies is necessary to minimize adverse effects on the environment, economy, quality of life, and tribal values. The Coast Guard and state will continue to work together and with the Northwest Area Committee and Regional Response Team, to manage significant spills and incidents in a Unified Command using the Incident Command System.