Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Monday, September 21, 2009

An exercise in environmental awareness, building a better Northwest through the Port and resource issues dominate the news for a Monday.

A SPILL DRILL IN PRINCE RUPERT HARBOUR-- A training exercise and simulation of an upcoming salvage operation will be featured in Prince Rupert harbour at the end of September, as The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation showcases its abilities and readiness to handle any environmental emergencies (Daily News Archives )

The Port of Prince Rupert is being portrayed as a potential catalyst for turning around the economy of the northwest when the recovery from the recession takes hold, a senior representative of the Bank of Canada outlined some of the positive possibilities last week (Daily News Archives)

The Cops for Cancer ride came to its conclusion last week with a wet but welcome arrival ceremony at Mariners Park, participants in this years ride, raised over 160,000 dollars for their cause (Daily News Archives)

Prince Rupert's centennial year breaks out in song as some local musicians and vocalists contribute their talents for a centennial CD set to be produced in October (Daily News Archives)

The Sports section featured a review of the weekend's Flag football action as well as a preview of the upcoming season for the Rupert Rapids swim team.

CBC Northern BC, Daybreak North
A Mighty Wind
The Highs and Lows of Natural Gas

A pair of resource oriented issues highlighted the CBC Radio News cycle on Monday, a look at how the electrification of the Highway 37 corridor could provide for wind power development for the Tahltan (listen to the audio report here), Daybreak North also featured a discussion on what the future of Natural gas in Northern BC may be (listen to the audio report here)
Front page, headline story
A Spill Drill in Prince Rupert Harbour
By Monica Lamb-Yorski

The Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, September 21, 2009

Prince Rupert Harbour will be the focus of an oil spill drill on September 30 and October 1.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation/Burrard Clean Operations will coordinate equipment and resources to handle a 10,000 tonne clean up, using both Canadian and American resources.

The exercise, said WCMRC manager Robert Stromdahl, will demonstrate the company's ability to respond to a large oil spill and will simulate an actual salvage operation of the U.S. Army transport vessel, Brigadier General M.G. Zalinkski, scheduled for spring 2010.

The Zalinski was used during both world wars and sank during a storm in 1946 in Grenville Channel in the Inside Passage. The Canadian Coast Guard will lead the salvage operation.

Holding the simulation exercise eight months in advance of the actual salvage will give WCMRC, CCG, community stakeholders and all other Canadian Government agencies a chance to evaluate and, if necessary, enhance their contingency plan.

"We will be the response organization on standby when they do the salvage should there be an oil release," said Stromdahl of the Zalinski salvage. Along with a cargo of munitions, army trucks and lumber that sunk with the ship, it is estimated 700 to 800 tonnes of Bunker C (fuel oil) is still inside the vessel.

WCMRC is required by Transport Canada to demonstrate that it is capable of handling oil spills within its Geographic Area of Response and must renew its certification every three years.

Stromdahl participated in a 10,000 tonne exercise 12 years ago and several small exercises, when he was in the oil handling business, but this will be the first time that he will be on the coordination side of the exercise.

The "10,000 tonne table-top exercise" will run for 36 hours and, while participating personnel have been notified, it won't be until the actual day of the exercise that operational assignments and details will be announced.

Part of the exercise's design is meant to help determine the company's readiness to respond to an oil spill in a remote area and assess its ability to mobilize from Vancouver and establish a command post in Prince Rupert.

"It is an expensive endeavour and picking Prince Rupert as the location is more costly - but Transport Canada realizes that oil could spill anywhere. Oil doesn't know territorial boundaries. A spill could come over the 54th parallel no problem," said Stromdahl, Stromdahl seems to be taking it all in stride and said he's excited that the exercise is taking place in Prince Rupert Harbour.

"There are going to be U.S. vessels and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Canadian Coast Guard is bringing the Provo Willis and our own oil response vehicle Eagle Bay will be involved," he added.

Standing inside the company's 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Drydock Road, Stromdahl indicated the trailers in the compound outside contain an absorbent boom, a 24 Absorbent GP boom and a larger boom for stormy weather called a Kepner Boom.
And while there won't be any real oil spilled into the water on October 1 some groups in the past have used things like puffed rice and little plastic balls. This time around though, personnel participating in the exercise will have to imagine that there's oil there.

Dave Zroback and Don Piche have been working with Stromdahl since September 2008 and have several years experience being on the Fishermen's Oil Spill Emergency Team, prior to working for WCMRC.

Both men worked on the Queen of the North spill in March 2006 and an oil spill in Squamish in August 2006 when a freighter hit pilings and dumped fuel into the water.

Zroback also attended a 700,000 litre oil spill in Lake Wabamum, Ab. caused when a train derailed in August 2005.

When he travelled to the derailment spill, he took along an 18 ft. aluminum workboat built in Prince Rupert by Broadwater for use in the clean up.

"It's a good job," Zroback said. "You're meeting lots of people and helping the environment, obviously, but also staying in touch with fishermen. I like being outside, travelling up and down the coast. It's coast-wide - we can be called out at anytime."

"There are 20,000 km of B.C. west coastline mapped out by the Ministry of Environment and 22,300 of that is our responsibility, but we have a large contingency behind us and other contracts.

Washington State and Alaska can come and work with us," Stromdahl noted.

The staff has visited the Haida Gwaii, Shearwater and First Nations communities to do exercises and will be doing additional training October 5 and 6 in Massett. In June they finished certifying 21 new people in Oil Spill Response.

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