Western Canada Marine Response is the only Transport Canada-certified company on the B.C. coast and respond to a variety of spill calls. They will respond to a simulated oil spill in Plumper Sound on June 7 as part of their recertification process. (Black Press/File)

Oil spill response simulation Wednesday betwen Pender and Saturna islands

Western Canada Marine Responss up for Transport Canada recert.; new response bases in the works

Over the next few weeks, construction contracts, vessel procurement and hiring plans for six new oil spill response stations on the B.C. coast will enter the execution phase.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) has been planning on adding the new bases since late last year, following the federal government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. Michael Lowry, manager of communications for WCMRC, says the need for the response stations was a requirement set out by the National Energy Board — part of the conditions of approval for the pipeline project.

Sidney is on the list of those six new spill response bases, as are Beecher Bay, Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Nanaimo and the Richmond area. WCMRC already has two in the region: at Duncan and in Vancouver. The Sidney satellite base is expected to have a 65-foot skimming vessel, landing craft and work boats and employ approximately 22 people. The facility is expected to cover southeastern Vancouver Island, from Haro Strait to Boundary Pass.

Lowry said they are required to have the added spill response capability in place six months before the new pipeline is operational. The Sidney station is expected to be ready between April and June, 2018. The other bases have similar timelines.

The bases, vessels and personnel are part of an oil spill response plan and are expected to cost around $150 million and create approximately 125 new jobs.

WCMRC, which is funded by industry and regulated by the federal government, will be active tomorrow (Wed., June 7) in Plumper Sound, between Pender and Saturna Islands, as they simulate a 2,500 tonne oil spill. It’s part of their regular certification process with Transport Canada.

Lowry said between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., people on those Gulf Islands and on the water will see some 20 vessels and 90 people at work, responding to a simulated spill from their Duncan and Vancouver bases. Working with other agencies, Lowry said there will be Canadian Coast Guard vessel on scene and a Transport Canada aerial surveillance plane in the air. WCMRC itself will deploy aerostats and drones to monitor the area.

Lowry said the exercise is done every two years to maintain their Transport Canada certification. Using computer modeling, they incorporate winds and currents to simulate a spill (no actual oil is used). Vessels will use booms to collect the “oil” and skimmer ships will mimic collecting it and transferring it to barges for storage.

The last exercise, Lowry continued, was two years ago in Vancouver Harbour and before than, in Howe Sound.

“The main goal is to be able to mobilize our equipment to respond to a spill,” Lowry explained. “It’s also to test our response capability to geographical sensitivities, environmental or cultural.”

Those site have been extensively mapped and documented — some 400 sites within the Salish Sea. Depending on where an oil spill takes place, as well as wind and sea conditions, they plan on being able to set up booms to protect those sites well before any oil reaches them.

WCMRC covers all 27,000 kilometers of the B.C. coastline, from Alaska to Washington State, Lowry said, and they have a base in Prince Rupert. They respond to a variety of calls, typically initiated by a vessel or the Coast Guard for what is known as a ‘mystery spill’ – or from an unknown source. They have someone on duty 24/7 to respond to those calls.

Just Posted

Get ready for the 39th annual Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

Up to 9,000 particpants are anticipated for this year’s three-day race weekend

Impaired driver crashes into Victoria police vehicle, injures officer

Cook Street collision occured in the early morning hours of Tuesday

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Plaque that replaced Macdonald statue at Victoria city hall vandalized

Less than 24 hours after plaque was installed, an ‘X’ had been scratched through the centre

Weekend collisions keep West Shore RCMP busy

Officers responded to three separate incidents within the span of one hour

Reader photos: Greater Victoria’s hazy skies

Lingering smoke from wildfires contributed to the province issuing a smoky skies bulletin

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Vehicle catches fire near Vancouver Island provincial park

Fire shut down Highway 4 in both directions

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of pesticides used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike

Most Read