An oil or fuel spill is one of the worst environmental crises a port facility can face. Armed with a $30,000 state grant, the Port San Luis Harbor District is now better equipped to handle just such an emergency.
The Port San Luis Harbor Patrol on Thursday took delivery of a storage trailer and 1,000 feet of containment boom equipment funded by the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response. Harbor Patrol personnel then received eight hours of training on how to use the new equipment.
The equipment could be used to deal with a variety of spills, but the most likely scenario would be a boat moored in the harbor that starts to sink and leak diesel fuel, said Cindy Murphy, OSPR grant coordinator.
“The nearest state spill response team is two hours away in Carpinteria,” she said. “This equipment gives the Harbor Patrol the ability to respond immediately and contain the spill.”
The Harbor Patrol could use the boom equipment to encircle the sinking boat in less than an hour and prevent the spread of leaking fuel oil. This would give state oil spill response teams time to arrive on scene and begin cleanup.
“It’s kind of like an oil spill first-aid kit,” said Kyle Watson of Global Diving and Salvage of Mare Island, the vendor which supplied the port with the equipment and trained the harbor personnel how to use it.
Having such equipment on scene is an important environmental protection, said Melissa Boggs, Central Coast environmental scientist with OSPR. Oil spills pose a serious threat to shorebirds and sea otters.
Spilled oil poisons wildlife and saturates the shorebirds’ plumage and the otters’ fur, exposing them to hypothermia. The oil could also pollute the estuary of nearby San Luis Obispo Creek, which is habitat to steelhead trout and tidewater gobies, both federally protected fish species.
OSPR began its grant program in 2008 following a series of oil spills in the state’s coastal waters. Since its inception, the program has funded 34 grants of up to $30,000 to local port facilities all along the state’s coastline to purchase oil spill containment equipment.
“This additional oil spill response equipment will allow the port to respond to smaller, local spills more efficiently, helping protect our natural resources and preserving the California coastline,” said Loch Dreizler, Port San Luis facilities manager.