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Tug and barge owner to pay $2.2 million in B.C. fuel spill
was written by Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska – Juneau , 2019-07-18 18:01:14
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The owner of a tug and barge that grounded and spilled diesel in Canadian waters on its return from Southeast Alaska will pay about $2.2 million in fines.
The Kirby Corporation’s articulated tug barge had completed fuel deliveries in Skagway and Ketchikan and was returning to Vancouver when the crewman on watch fell asleep.
The Nathan E. Stewart grounded in the early morning hours of October 13, 2016. It spilled about 29,000 gallons of diesel and lubricants in the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, British Columbia.
On Tuesday, the U.S. company admitted in provincial court to environmental violations for harm to shorebirds and fish. The crewman at the helm hadn’t registered with pilotage authorities to be qualified to drive the ship in Canadian waters.
The Heiltsuk Nation criticized the fine as “a drop in the bucket” for the company.
“We both know this sentence does not represent true justice,” Marilyn Slett, the tribe’s president wrote in an open letter to the Kirby Corporation’s CEO. “True justice would mean paying for an environmental impact assessment, admitting civil liability, and working openly and honestly to address compensation and remediation for the harm caused by the spill.”
Court filings show the $2.9 million Canadian penalty represents less than 1 percent of Kirby’s annual revenue last year.
The First Nations tribe sued Kirby Corporation in 2018 alleging the spill destroyed its most productive clam beds and harmed fishing grounds and cultural sites. The civil case is ongoing.
The tribe also seeks to bolster local spill response resources as articulated tug and barges regularly transit its traditional territory to supply fuel to Southeast Alaska. ATBs are tugs that push barges from behind and are increasingly common in the industry.
In a statement, the Kirby Corporation says it admits to the facts in the settlement and would comply with the ruling.
“We sincerely regret this incident,” the company said. “And we have amended our operating procedures, training, auditing, promotion protocols and equipment to help reduce the potential for future accidents.”
The Texas-based company says it’s installed navigation alarms and enhanced crew training to help reduce the potential for future accidents.
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Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the largest national forest in the United States. It got it’s name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and goes back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt created the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest was renamed and expanded and today the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest runs from the Pacific to the large inland ice fields that border British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. More than 80 percent of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with its thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest has 11,000 miles of coastline. Tongass’ large coastal rain forest consists of towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth underneath thegiant conifers is made up of young evergreens and shrubs including devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens drape numerous trees and rocks.
Wildlife is abundant all through Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and it’s two main predators, wolf and brown bear, are found here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals spotted along the shores include Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and an increasing population of sea otters. The water teem with fish including halibut and all 5 species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles stay in this region than in any other spot in the world. While the place to find the world’s greatest temperate rain forest, just about fifty percent of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most well-known ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” because it is only thirteen miles from down-town Juneau along a paved road. A boat ride from Petersburg or Wrangell brings you near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Just thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and very easily Alaska’s most energetic. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, lately in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so powerful they cause Hubbard to calve nearly constantly. The Tongass includes 19 wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, as well as Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area surrounding Haines and Skagway aren’t part of the national forest.