Updated: add'l letter added at end
Grays Harbor poor choice for locating crude oil terminals
BY LARRY THEVIK Aug. 21, 2015 Special to The Olympian
The dangers of oil trains have understandably dominated headlines about proposed oil terminals in Washington state. As a long-time crab fisherman out of Grays Harbor, I’m very concerned about another risk that has so far gotten far less attention yet deserves equal time in the public spotlight: the consequences of a major oil spill for our local economy, environment and way of life.
Grays Harbor is an essential fish habitat for many species and a major nursery area for Dungeness crab. The tribal and non-tribal average crab catch value, based on state and tribal estimates, is $44 million a year. The annual economic benefit is $80 million to $150 million, depending on the multiplier used.
In 2014 Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the Washington Coast spending $481 million, according to a Surf Rider Foundation study. More than one-third of those visits were to Grays Harbor County to enjoy all our coastal waters have to offer.
The state is expected to soon release for public comment a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the first two of three crude oil terminal proposals in Grays Harbor.
No crude oil presently moves through Grays Harbor. Yet, if the terminals are built, oil tanker and oil barge traffic is expected to increase vessel visits by 450 percent, adding 750 oil-vessel bar transits annually. The Grays Harbor shipping channel is narrow, shallow, subject to strong current flows, and has limited staging area for ships and tugs.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stated, “Grays Harbor is an area particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of oil spills.” The introduction of such huge volumes of oil transport and oil vessel traffic in an area not suited to them in the first place is inviting disaster. Grays Harbor is simply a poor choice for oil terminals.
Between trains, tanks, ships and barges, up to 115 million gallons of oil will be in Grays Harbor at any one time. We know from disasters like the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Valdez in Alaska that one major oil spill can be devastating: contaminating coastlines, killing fish and wildlife, destroying livelihoods and ruining property values. The damage can last for decades, even generations.
One major spill is one too many. The proposed oil terminals threaten not just Grays Harbor, but our state’s entire coast, a place cherished by millions. Those who care must engage in the DEIS comment process to tell our state leaders to put our waterways, our jobs, and our communities ahead of oil companies’ relentless pursuit of expanding markets and profits at our peril.
Larry Thevik has fished Grays Harbor and the coast for 45 years in pursuit of salmon, halibut, tuna, prawns and Dungeness crab. He is vice president of Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association.
Update: this letter was published by the Daily World on 8/18/15 but not posted on their website
I am writing to congratulate the City of Aberdeen on adopting a six month moratorium on crude oil storage, affirming the enormous risk and little gain associated with oil storage and transport in Grays Harbor. The Port of Grays Harbor is a poor choice for shipping Canadian tar-sands crude oil or US Bakken crude oil. The proposed crude oil trains would travel through Aberdeen and the terminals would be sited within the population center of Hoquiam, creating substantial risk from fire or explosions Tank overflows on average occur every 3,300 tank fillings causing several explosions and fires. There is also the risk of spillage, accident, and fire with any train-to-tank transfer, which could occur at any of three locations within the city of Hoquiam. The potential for disaster is real.
The Port is built on landfill in a tsunami alert zone, whose land and waters are battered by serious storms and subject to flooding. The pilings supporting the terminals are unlikely to withstand a tsunami resulting in nearly certain tank rupture, fire, and explosions spreading to the entire complex.
Where is the gain to the communities of Grays Harbor? The three companies who plan to build facilities to receive, store and ship crude oil from Hoquiam would create tank farms with over a 110 million gallon capacity. Initially, there would be jobs constructing the tank farms, but once completed, those in the longshore industry predict a net loss because the current more labor intensive work of handling commodities in the Port would be replaced by the largely automated work of unloading and loading oil. There are other important economic impacts to consider, including the effects of steadily increasing heavy, slow and over one mile long 100 car trains, each carrying approximately 2.9 million gallons of volatile crude. Such long slow trains would interrupt the flow of traffic to businesses, homes, and schools, and would interfere with emergency responses.
Fishing and tourism industry are major components of the Twin Harbor’s economy. The risk is high for leaks during transport, and spills during loading and unloading, contaminating our waters and devastating these industries for many years. How can we run the risk of losing our thriving seafood industry jobs for a mere handful of crude oil jobs?
The chemical fumes (vapors and gases) vented from the oil storage tanks with floating lids, as well as fumes emitted during the loading and unloading of trains and tankers will impact Hoquiam and Aberdeen and surrounding towns affecting citizen health and diminishing property values. Exposure to this air pollution includes increased risks of cancers, stroke and heart attack, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and neuro-developmental and behavioral disorders in children.
I wish also to welcome Renewable Energy Group, the new owners of Imperium Renewables, with the sincere hope that they will hold as a priority the long-term welfare of the persons, economy, the bay and the beautiful surroundings of Grays Harbor.