The Washington State Legislature approved $3.7 million to fund a year-round rescue tug at Neah Bay, located on the northern tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The rescue tug is believed to be the best defense against a catastrophic oil spill for Washington’s coasts which are heavily trafficked by oil tankers and cargo vessels. Scientists believe that just one catastrophic spill in Washington’s Puget Sound could mean devastation for sea bird populations, killer whales and other wildlife. Such a spill would also cause oil slicked beaches, closing the coast to recreation indefinitely. The rescue tug responds to vessels in trouble, preventing spills from ever taking place.
Since 1999, a part-time stationed tug at Neah Bay has assisted 40 vessels in distress, including a bulk carrier this February that had lost propulsion because of a fuel pump failure. Washington chapters and a regional network of conservation groups reached out to decision makers and raised awareness for this important issue and the State Legislature responded by funding the tug year-round. Until now, the tug has only been funded during the winter, but oil spills can happen any time of year. This new state funding is just for one year. Washington chapters are also working on behalf of important federal legislation that will require industry to pay for a year-round rescue tug permanently.