Central Puget Sound GRP – Open for Public Comment!

Deployed boom outside the Shell Harbor Island facility in Seattle, WA.

My name is Wendy Buffett, I’m an oil spill preparedness planner with Ecology, and I’m so excited to announce the Central Puget Sound (CPS) Geographic Response Plan (GRP) is now open for public comment!

GRPs aim to protect the sensitive natural, cultural, and economic resources in a specified geographic area. A key part of this process is gathering input from the people who work, live, and play in this community. I hope to hear from you during this public comment period (November 5th– December 10th).

Ecology last fully updated the Central Puget Sound GRP in 1994, and obviously much has changed since then. This area includes ten bulk oil facilities, two railroads now moving crude, two petroleum pipelines, and several bulk oil shipping companies. All are regulated by Ecology and are required to test GRP strategies twice per year during deployment drills. After 25 years of these tests, people had a lot to say about this GRP.

Why this update took 5 years

The update for this plan actually started in 2015. Harry Chichester was originally assigned to this update, and from the start he worked with Tribes, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard, oil facilities, spill response contractors, state and local agencies, environmental organizations, and other non-governmental groups. Based on those conversations and field visits, he added over 150 potential new strategies to the existing 82 sites, with the intention of removing many of them during a quality control process. However he retired just after fieldwork was completed, leaving nearly 250 strategies to be evaluated.

Around the time Harry retired, our team was meeting a legislative order that doubled the amount of GRPs in the state. When we finished in June 2017, there were 42 GRPs to be maintained by three planners. Over time, our process has changed, we added some more people to our team, and the Central Puget Sound GRP was reassigned to me.

So I reviewed hundreds of strategies, using notes and photos, to whittle the list down. I focused on whether the strategies could be effectively deployed, and if they fit the criteria in the Northwest Area Contingency Plan, based on input from Tribes, state agencies, and oil spill response contractors. The changes are summarized in a spreadsheet, linked in the below PDF.

Between training, oil spill contingency plan maintenance, drills, GRP site visits, data entry, meeting with experts, and writing chapters, it took two years until the draft was ready. I shared a portion of it with resource agencies and tribes – right as our COVID lockdown started. So again, the draft was paused while we figured out what the pandemic meant for meaningful outreach and our own workloads. Over the summer, we created a tool to add non-floating oil information to GRPs, so that we can update plans in time to meet an upcoming legislative deadline.

Requesting comments during a pandemic

Now, 5 years after the Central Puget Sound GRP was opened, an updated draft is available. I am so pleased that this plan is finally available for review, but not that it is happening during a pandemic.  To make sure that everyone gets a chance to contribute, comments will be requested again in 2021.

These geographic response plans are vital to our state’s preparedness in the event of an oil spill. Please follow the links below to review the draft of the updated GRP or provide comments. You may also submit comments by mail or email. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns at wendy.buffett@ecy.wa.gov or 360-791-4385.

Review the draft GRP: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/ezshare/sppr/Preparedness/CPS-GRP/CPS-PublicReviewCoverPage.pdf

Comment online:

Use our online comment form: http://sppr.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=jpUJb

Comment by mail:

Wendy Buffett
Department of Ecology, Spills Program
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600