The Coast Guard reauthorization bill signed into law this past week includes three amendments written by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, to protect the nation’s icebreaking capability, improve tsunami debris cleanup and study the risk of Canadian tar sands supertanker traffic in Washington state waters.
Cantwell praised the legislation as a major step forward in protecting Washington State’s coastal economy and some 165,000 jobs that depend on it.
Among her amendments is one to create a plan and direct the marine debris interagency task force to coordinate cleanup of tsunami debris, if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration director finds the level of debris to be a “severe marine debris event.” The NOAA administrator must make this designation within 30 days of the signing of that law.
Cantwell’s amendments will also require the Coast Guard to conduct a study within 180 days to analyze oil spill risks from additional Canadian tar sands oil supertanker, taker and barge traffic in the Salish Sea, which includes the Puget Sound, strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, Haro and Rosario Straits.
Another amendment co-sponsored by Cantwell prohibits the Coast guard from acting on plans to decommission the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Sea unless the Coast Guard conducts a study showing that scrapping the vessel is the most cost-effective option, and provides a plan to meet national needs for additional icebreakers. Cantwell’s language also ensures that the nation’s remaining icebreakers will remain homeported in Seattle at least through 2022.