View across Haro Straits looking to the Canadian Gulf Islands from Camp Orkila, Orcas Island
Marine Managers Workshop 2017

Marine Managers Workshop 2017

Environmental & Socioeconomic Impacts
of Vessel-Related Spills*

April 3-4, 2017 at Camp Orkila, Orcas Island

Who Should Attend: Marine Managers of the central Salish Sea including leaders in marine related industries, real estate, tourism and government. 


 Welcome: Jamie Stephens, San Juan County Council

Invited speakers and guests include stakeholders** in US, Canada, Tribes and First Nations

Keynote Speaker: Dave Anderson,
author of the book Spill: Oil and Orcas in the Salish Sea

Proposed Topics:

  • Determine what is at risk during an Oil Spill
  • The value of what is lost: reflecting the cost of recent major incidents
  • What parts of Canada's November 2017 "Oceans Protection Plan" safeguard this area.
  • Vessel Traffic management in the Salish Sea
  • Funding ways to reduce risks
  • Washington State Proposed Revisions to the Marine Transportation Bill

Final agenda and reservation information will be made available in the coming weeks.

       *One of 4 topics listed as not addressed (see Page 2) in the October, 2016 Salish Sea Oil Spill Risk Mitigation Workshop.

       ** 2015 Marine Managers Workshop including list of attendees (see page 19).



The goal for the workshop is to:

  • Understand the cost to the region of a large oil spill occurring near Turn Point between San Juan County and the Gulf Islands
  • Explore the gaps in response strategies that may impact the region
  • Engage in facilitated discussions about reasonable responses for marine resource managers

The two day workshop will consist of presentations, break out brainstorming sessions and hands on activities. Topics to be covered at the workshop include:  

  • Reducing the risks of a potential large vessel oil spill in the central Salish Sea​
  • Spectrum of options available to San Juan and Gulf Island communities – facilitated break out sessions


Increased vessel traffic in the central Salish sea increases the risk of an oil spill from collision or running aground.  This area is home to many forms of marine life, including 22 stocks of threatened Puget Sound Chinook salmon, endangered species such as the Southern Resident Orca Whales, and transiting Frasier River salmon. Just in San Juan County, the annual harvests of fish and shellfish total $36 million annually.

Excerpts in a letter from the San Juan County Council in August 2015 explains:

San Juan Islands National Monument was recently established to protect and maintain historical and culturally significant areas for their unique and varied natural and scientific resources. Many of these protected areas border the shipping routes into and out of the Strait of Juan DeFuca including Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island and Patos Lighthouse, Patos Island, Washington.  They have the highest environmental value of any large vessel shipping lanes within the Salish Sea .

San Juan County's economy is highly dependent on tourism, real estate, and construction.  These are driven by our relatively pristine environment. An oil spill or fuel spill into the Salish Sea resulting from the project, an oil tanker collision, or other vessel malfunction would have a negative impact on San Juan County's environment, economy and property values.

Spill scenarios conducted on behalf of Kinder Morgan, Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment, and Oil Spill Capacity Study document the high risk of a spill in the region of the main ferry route crossing to Sydney B.C., and Arachne Reef - Turn Point, Stuart Island passage. These areas are also locations rated with the greatest level of navigational complexity for the entire passage. According to these reports, due to the proximity of land, any spill in this area would reach our shores before first responders could arrive on scene to assess or act on the situation. Any spill will cause an economic hardship to mitigate and restore damaged critical habitat areas.

According to the Stantec report:

San Juan County's Islands and the Gulf Islands' shores are not far from the shipping lanes. They do not enjoy the same amount of distance as the Russian bulk carrier vessel Simshur did when it went adrift west of Haida Gwaii waiting for a response from the Canadian Coast Guard in October 2014. If a spill occurs it is not a matter of "if" but "when" oil will reach shore. Our nearshore is home to forage fish such as sand lance, herring, and surf smelt. Our waters and nearshore are dominated by Frazier River system salmon, juveniles going to sea and adults returning. A spill could devastate this system.

Under ideal conditions only 80% of the free oil can be recovered when a full scale response is mustered in 72 hours. The December 2013 Stantec Study prepared for Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC shows a 90% chance of oil hitting land in Roche Harbor within 10 hours of a spill in the Arachne Reef area. Some of the most expensive properties in the State of Washington are in Roche Harbor. 

The increased vessel traffic on the perimeter of our county will bring additional noise, light and marine congestion for those transiting east - west. Whether on the ferry, private boat, or recreational fishing and boating it will pose an increased burden for those who are ferry dependent without compensation.

Should there be a spill incident, it would probably reach land; it would irreparably harm property values on the water and inland. Our County relies on its rural character and environmentally concerned residents and tourists to boost land values. There is very little data on the long term impacts of a spill on communities and property values. There is less still on communities where the property values are as high as San Juan County's. However the information that is available is clear. A case that illustrates this is Marshall, Michigan: 

Not only are pipelines a health hazard, they threaten local economies. After Kalamazoo, more than 150 affected homes in Marshall were purchased by Enbridge, making the housing market very fragile and forcing families to relocate.

The stigma that follows oil spills depresses real estate values. A study by Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) showed homes directly impacted by oil spills face a 10 to 40 per cent decline in value, while area properties had value fall from between five and eight per cent.

Many of our homes are second homes so depressed values could be even larger. Using the example of Roche Harbor area on San Juan Island; in addition to the resort marina, there are approximately 188 waterfront parcels which are generally more valuable than the county median home price of $450,000. A spill in the Haro Straits which would probably reach the Harbor would mean a minimum loss of $33,840,000 US in property values alone before clean up starts. 



"Climate Change and the Salish Sea"
February 27 - March 1, 2013 at Friday Harbor Labs


Marine Managers Workshop 2017