Makah Indian Tribe Washington

Staff Reports

A government panel says the risk of oil spills in state waters can be reduced with tougher safety standards, better communications and changes in shipping lanes. But the 20-member Oil Spill Risk Management Panel stopped short July 6 of advising that a rescue tug be stationed full time at Neah Bay, as urged by environmentalists and the Makah. The tug was supported on a 10-4 vote, but panel members had agreed they would not forward recommendations opposed by more than two panel members. The panel - with representatives from government, maritime industries and environmental groups - has spent nine months studying the risks of oil spills from shipping accidents in north Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The risk of oil spills has been debated since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Shortly after that spill, a loaded oil tanker lost power near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, posing a risk of a similar spill in local waters. Environmentalists, backed by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and other legislators, urged a round-the-clock rescue tug be stationed at Neah Bay. A tug stationed at Neah Bay last winter was withdrawn when government and tribal funds ran out.

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