Oil Spill Drill at Fort Baker


On March 3, 2011 OSPR (The Office of Spill Prevention and Response) led a drill adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Baker. Rice husks were trailed into the water from a skiff to simulate oil, and booms were placed to protect the sensitive eel grass habitat, while allowing access for the Coast Guard Golden Gate’s MLB (Motor Life Boats) rescue boats. 
Local and State authorities, along with the Coast Guard are actively planning, and practicing their response for the next big spill. Not all sensitive habitats are protected, however, and this is one of the ongoing issues to be addressed. 
Deb Self of San Francisco Bay Keeper pointed out several important pinniped habitats outside of the Golden Gate Bridge that have no plans under the ACP (Area Contingency Plan). San Francisco Bay Keeper has been working since 1989 to save the Bay from pollution in all of it’s forms – they believe that the most important issues facing us in the event of a spill are as follows:
Prioritize the most critical ecological sites for immediate protection. The Area Contingency Plan identifies 232 sensitive ecological sites around the Bay. These sites should be evaluated based on strict ecological criteria to identify which are most critical to the healthy functioning of the San Francisco Bay and coastal ecosystems so that they can be prioritized for emergency response measures. 
Prepare response plans at the local level. Response agencies at the county and municipal level should develop Local Plans in conjunction with the San Francisco Area Contingency Plan (which governs regional emergency response for the Bay Area). Resources available through local agencies and mutual aid alliances – such as trained staff and cleanup materials – should be inventoried so that they are taken into account and utilized during an emergency response. 
Local agencies also should participate in the design, execution and evaluation of emergency response drills for priority ecological sites within their jurisdictions.  These drills should be designed to test challenging situations such as spring tides and low visibility.

Prevent a breakdown of communication from state to local agencies. The State Office of Emergency Services should be tasked with notifying and updating the Regional Office of Emergency Services, which should in turn notify and coordinate the activities of local response agencies.

Make use of incoming information. The Unified Command (the committee in charge of implementing the Area Contingency Plan in case of an emergency) must actively seek, evaluate and act upon information from the field. This is particularly important in low visibility situations when information from overhead flights is not available. Radio channels used by fishing boats should be monitored by Vessel Traffic Service (an operation of the US Coast Guard, meant to coordinate the safe transit of vessels in the San Francisco Bay) and reported through the Coast Guard to the Unified Command. A hotline for public reports of oil and oiled wildlife should be operational immediately but no later than 90 minutes after a spill occurs.                                                                                              

But what is it they say about an ounce of prevention? Currently, San Francisco Bay Keeper, Pacific Environment, and other organizations are exploring the possibility of new legislation to address two key gaps in oil spill prevention and response policies:

  • the need to set up boom around every fueling operation on the Bay; and
  • the need to improve the quality of boom that’s available to prevent the spread of oil when a spill does happen.

Shark Protection Bill Introduced at the Cal Academy of Sciences

Showing lots of SHARK LOVE on Valentine’s Day, Assemblymen Jared Huffman and Paul Fong announce California Bill 276 to take measures to close the loopholes in our laws, hopefully ending California’s contribution to the shark fin trade. But the debate is heating up. Shall we preserve our traditions or preserve our ocean, and thus our planet?

Epic Herring Spawn on San Francisco Bay !

The epic herring spawn on the Bay this weekend was hard to miss. Sea lions, birds and even ladybugs were out in force to feed on the herring and their highly sought after eggs. The fishing season is now closed, as the quotas were filled early. This will allow even more time for the herring to regain a healthy footing in the Bay. It’s a living sign of hope that even with an oil spill such as the Costco Busan, an ecosystem can rebound if protected and given a chance. Whether or not recovery is possible with mega-gushers such as the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, remains to be seen. We can only hope that this epic spawning event in San Francisco is not an anomaly and that is the beginning of the rebounding of a healthy herring population here in the Bay.

Video by Deb Castellana

Bag the Plastics!

On Monday, November 29th, Chris Pincetich of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and I hit the road for Sacramento for a press conference with Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger & a hoard of local California officials who are pushing hard to get a bag ban passed in the State. The votes for AB 1998 were racking up, but a few weeks before the election, out of state petrochemical interests (i.e. The Bad Guys) came in with their cash, and well, you know what happened next. So city by city, people and local leaders are stepping up to ban the bag. And we’ll just keep pushing until the job is done!