UPDATE: Heiltsuk Nation relieved Jake Shearer and fuel barge exiting Heiltsuk Territory

Heiltsuk Nation relieved Jake Shearer and fuel barge exiting Heiltsuk Territory

Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory (December 2, 2017) – After a stormy crisis and nearly weeklong ordeal, Heiltsuk leadership is relieved that the departure of the Jake Shearer and its fully-laden fuel barge is imminent.

“Now that we’re nearing the end of this situation, it’s terrifying to take a step back and think about what could have been,” says Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “Since the fuel barge was towed to safe harbour, it was confirmed that it was carrying four times the volume of petroleum products initially reported. In fact, therewere approximately 12.5 million litres of diesel and gasoline aboard, and a single anchor that held them offshore in Sunday night’s storm.”

The Jake Shearer and its barge have been in safe harbour near Bella Bella since Monday evening, surrounded by precautionary boom. They were joined on Tuesday by the Earl W. Redd, another tug belonging to Harley Marine, which will complete the tow to Alaska.

“Heiltsuk representatives appointed by our stewardship offices observed inspections of the vessels to ensure they are seaworthy,” said Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt. “It’s our responsibility to have a strong presence in order to protect our waters. We’ve been part of every aspect of this incident response.”

Heiltsuk Nation’s experience with marine emergency response during 2016’s Nathan E. Stewart disaster had the community on edge all week.

“We’ll be relieved to see this vessel out of Heiltsuk waters, and we intend to make sure other vessels like it are regulated out of our waters for good,” says Chief Slett. “Indigenous communities bear the highest risk from marine shipping incidents, and it’s time for our deep local knowledge and stewardship ethic to drive marine emergency response in the region,” said Chief Slett. “We look forward to implementing our proposal for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre with the support of all other levels of government and our neighbours.”

Just three weeks ago, Heiltsuk released a report analyzing past marine incidents on the central coast and proposing an Indigenous Marine Response Centre to vastly improve marine safety and safeguard the environment.

Additional information

Media contact

To arrange an interview, please call or email:

  • Ph. 604.649.8613
  • E. media@heiltsuk.ca

Response to Jake Shearer fuel barge crisis highlights immediate need for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre

Response to Jake Shearer fuel barge crisis highlights immediate need for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre

Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory (November 27, 2017) – The fuel barge in distress in Heiltsuk waters remains anchored off Goose Island group this morning with a nearby tug contracted to assist with a tow. Crews are passing lines to the barge, but the situation remains precarious.

“It was a sleepless night knowing that the fate of our waters relied on the strength of just a couple of anchor lines holding the barge in place,” said Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt. “This is just one more reminder of why Indigenous first responders should be involved in marine response decision-making right from the start.”

13 months ago, the Heiltsuk Nation was devastated when the Nathan E. Stewart, an articulated tug barge similar to the Jake Shearer, ran aground in Seaforth Channel spilling over 100,000 litres of diesel fuel. Refloating the stranded Nathan E. Stewart took 33 days, with recovery efforts repeatedly hampered by stormy weather. Following that devastating spill, the Heiltsuk began working with marine safety and engineering experts in developing a report that calls for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre on the central coast. Initial plans for the IMRC were released by Heiltsuk just two weeks ago.

“During the response to the Nathan E. Stewart, three Liberal cabinet ministers visited Bella Bella promising a world-class spill response that has yet to materialize,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation. “I am in Ottawa at the moment and I am eager to meet with Ministers LeBlanc and Garneau and with Prime Minister Trudeau as soon as possible to discuss this alarming situation and Heiltsuk’s proposal for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre. The sooner we can all start working together, the safer our coast will be.”

The Indigenous Marine Response Centre would:

  • be located in Heiltsuk territory where the majority of incidents on the central coast occur;
  • be staffed by trained crew familiar with the local marine environment;
  • be equipped with vessels and equipment expressly designed for central coast conditions; and
  • respond to 100% of incidents in the study area in five hours or less.

With an initial investment of just $11 million by January 1, 2018, the IMRC’s base operations, fleet, and crew could be in effect by summer 2018.

Background

The Jake Shearer is an articulated tug barge or ATB, similar in design and capacity to the Nathan E. Stewart, which crashed in Heiltsuk waters 13 months ago. Unlike the Stewart, which was pushing an empty fuel barge, the Jake Shearer is pushing a barge laden with oil products. Combined with the fuel onboard the tug itself, the vessel is carrying more than 3.4 million litres of diesel fuel.

The Jake Shearer is approximately 900m away from Gosling rocks south of Goose Island. The waters around these shoals are popular fishing grounds for the Heiltsuk, and its rocks and kelp forests provide refuge for countless marine mammals including seals, sea lions, porpoises, and dolphins.

The weather, already difficult, is expected to worsen tomorrow with winds predicted to rise to 35-45 knots in the morning, increasing to 40-50 knots by the afternoon.

Additional information

  • Photographs of Jake Shearer Incident here
  • Learn more about the Heiltsuk proposal to improve marine incident response capacity here
  • Learn more about the 2017 Nathan E. Stewart grounding / spill here
  • Footage of spill / aftermath available here
  • Photographs of spill / aftermath available here

Media contact

To arrange an interview, please call or email:

  • Ph. 604.649.8613
  • E. media@heiltsuk.ca

Jake Shearer, American-owned articulated tug and barge (ATB), is in distress in Heiltsuk waters

Jake Shearer, American-owned articulated tug and barge (ATB), is in distress in Heiltsuk waters

Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory (November 26, 2017) – Heiltsuk Tribal Council has become aware that Jake Shearer, an American-owned articulated tug and barge (ATB), is in distress in Heiltsuk waters about 2 nautical miles south of Goose Island. The vessel is believed to be carrying a full load of oil products; if so, it may have up to 10,000 tons of fuel on board.

Preliminary reports suggest that the vessel has lost power and dropped the barge’s anchor. We understand that the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid has been tasked with an initial response and expects to reach the stricken vessel around 19:30 with the intention of attaching a tow line. HTC and our stewardship office are in close contact with Prince Rupert Coast Guard to monitor the situation.

This ATB is similar to the Nathan E. Stewart, the tug and barge which ran around in Seaforth Channel last fall, devastating marine resources when it spilled over 100,000 L of diesel. That response was complicated by turbulent coastal weather conditions similar to those we are experiencing tonight.

Heiltsuk vessels, including our Guardian Watchmen, will be on scene as soon it is safe to attend to the situation in local vessels.

This incident highlights the desperate need for Indigenous-led response capacity on the central coast. Heiltsuk will continue to push forward our proposal for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre, and in the meantime, we will provide an update on this developing emergency situation as more information becomes available.

Additional information

  • Photographs of Jake Shearer Incident here
  • Learn more about the Heiltsuk proposal to improve marine incident response capacity here
  • Learn more about the 2017 Nathan E. Stewart grounding / spill here
  • Footage of 2017 Nathan E Stewart spill / aftermath available here
  • Photographs of 2017 Nathan E Stewart spill / aftermath available here

Media contact

To arrange an interview, please call or email:

  • Ph. 604.649.8613
  • E. media@heiltsuk.ca

RELEASE: Heiltsuk proposes plan to take strong leadership role in central coast oil spill prevention and response

Heiltsuk proposes plan to take strong leadership role in central coast oil spill prevention and response

Bella Bella, B.C. (November 15, 2017) – The Heiltsuk Nation today published a report outlining plans to take to strengthen oil spill prevention and clean-up on the central coast by establishing an Indigenous Marine Response Centre (IMRC).

“When the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill happened last year, we experienced first-hand what passes for a ‘world class’ spill response,” says Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett of Heiltsuk Tribal Council.  “We waited for hours for a team to arrive, only to have them deploy defective equipment, in unfamiliar conditions, without safety gear or training for volunteer responders. As our community’s economy, environment, and way of life hung in the balance, we promised ourselves this would never happen in our territory again.”

The report Creating a World-Leading Response Plan describes the likelihood and distribution of various types of marine incidents on the central north coast, examines best spill response practices around the world, and, ultimately, puts forward a plan for the IMRC that will vastly improve marine safety and safeguard the environment.

In short, the proposed IMRC will:

●      be located in Heiltsuk territory where 80% of incidents in the study area occur;

●      be staffed by trained crew familiar with the local marine environment;

●      be equipped with vessels and equipment expressly designed for central coast conditions; and

●      respond to 100% of incidents in the study are in five hours or less.

The report was prepared by experts in marine safety and engineering, and shares priorities outlined in the federal government’s 2016 Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). In particular, the IMRC plan shares the OPP’s focus on indigenous-led responses and dedication to “a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters, including new preventive and response measures”.

“Heiltsuk have been protecting and stewarding our territory since time immemorial,” says Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt. “This proposal is a natural evolution of that work, and builds on the best available local knowledge and technology. We look forward to implementing this with the support of all other levels of government and our neighbours. We do this not only for Heiltsuk, but for all who travel within and through our territories.”

Advance copies of the report have been shared with Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation. The report was made available to the public today.

With an initial investment of $11 million by January 1, 2018, the IMRC’s base operations, fleet, and crew could be in effect by summer 2018.

Additional information

  • Copies of the IMRC report are available here
  • Learn more about the 2017 spill here
  • Footage of spill / aftermath available here
  • Photographs of spill / aftermath available here

Media contact

To arrange an interview, please call or email:

  • Ph. 604.649.8613
  • E. media@heiltsuk.ca


Indigenous Marine Response Centre: Creating a World-Leading Marine Response Centre

NOVEMBER 2017

Prepared by Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Executive Summary

Background

As was demonstrated with the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill response efforts, the current oil spill response capability on the central coast of BC is inadequate, slow, and unsafe.

This report highlights where the need for emergency response capability along the central and north coast of British Columbia is most urgent and outlines a plan for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre (IMRC) near Bella Bella to address this need.

Study design

The study area of interest for this report is spatially defined as from the north end of Vancouver Island to the north end of Principe Island and to Morning Reef in Grenville Channel (i.e., the “response area”).

Data considered in this report includes but is not limited to:

  • vessel transit data from Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Transit Services Data; • incident data from the Transportation Safety Board and Pacific Pilotage Authority; and
  • a global review of best practices and guiding principles regarding safety, incident prevention, and environmental protection.

What follows is a discussion of results and associated recommendations.

Results & proposal

The IMRC proposed in this document strives for excellence in oil spill clean-up and prevention.

Unlike typical spill response for the central coast, which is only deployed once a spill occurs, the IMRC will respond to a wide variety of marine incidents that could lead to oil contaminating the environment in the response area such as those classified as groundings, fires, bottom contacts, and capsizes.

The IMRC will be located on Denny Island across from Bella Bella, with satellite stations throughout the central coast.

The IMRC will be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice, and will consist of crew who are stationed at the centre, who live in the area, and who are familiar with the region, waterways, and weather conditions.

Incident response times

Approximately three incidents occur per month in the study area, with 80% of all incidents to date having occurred within Heiltsuk Territory.

In this scenario, 100% of incidents in the study area can be reached in five hours or less with fast response vessels travelling at 30 knots from Bella Bella.

The proposed site for the IMRC is the former BC Packers Site on Denny Island. It is a large waterfront property with sufficient space to house the land-based operation and mooring facilities for a fleet of response vessels. This site is conveniently located adjacent to the existing Canadian Coast Guard base, allowing for easy communication and co-operation between the two organizations.

Establishing the IMRC at the BC Packers site ensures:

  • 40%-50% of incidents will be responded to within 1 hour;
  • 75% of incidents will be responded to within 2 hours;
  • 80% of incidents will be responded to within 3 hours; and
  • 100% of incidents will be responded to within 5 hours.

Other jurisdictions in the world have published response times of 3 to 11 hours, with an average of 7.5 hours. The IMRC response time of 5 hours or less falls well within the current definition of “world-leading” response times.

Fleet & equipment

Based on expert advice and consultation with suppliers around the world, Sections 5 and 7 identify the vessels and supplies that are necessary and suitable for rapid and comprehensive response in BC’s central and north coast.

In brief, the IMRC’s effectiveness hinges on a fleet of fast response vessels capable of oil clean-up and containment, and a tug and barge system providing storage and additional oil spill clean-up capabilities. The barge – equipped with a range of safety gear, clean-up equipment, provisions, and living quarters – ensures the response team is able to work on site for up to three weeks without outside support. Currently, there do not appear to be booms and skimmers available that would perform well in central coast marine conditions.

Inshore booms and harbour booms, like much of what was deployed (and failed) in the Nathan E. Stewart response – simply do not stand up to the large waves and fast currents typical of central coast waters. Until specialized equipment is developed for containment in fast-flowing waters, offshore booms would make up a predominate part of the IMRC boom inventory, along with high strength Spectra fibre rope and high load anchors on the shoreline.

The development and testing of new and innovative oil boom designs is urgently needed. The IMRC will seek industry partnerships and local knowledge to help develop and field test designs, materials, and deployment on an on-going basis.

Staff & crew

The IMRC will employ 37 full time staff and crew, with vessel operators and response centre workers conducting shift work.

All crew will undergo a comprehensive training program, reviewed every three years (approximately) to ensure it is up to date. Prerequisites for crew will be that they live in the area and are familiar with the region, waterways, and weather conditions.

Costs

The annual operating cost of the IMRC is estimated to be $6.8 million.

Start-up costs include:

  • Development of an IMRC with Interim Response Capability: $99.8 M
  • Three Satellite Storage Depots: $11.7 M

To enable response to incidents while the construction of the land and marine infrastructure is being completed, interim response capabilities can be put in place immediately. This includes the purchase of vessels and equipment, the recruitment and training of crew, and research and development to support immediate and future IMRC operations.

Conclusion

In light of the remote, challenging environment, this proposal for a Heiltsuk-led IMRC provides the closest option to an instantaneous response to incidents that could lead to an oil spill.

The IMRC builds on Heiltsuk’s millennia-long tradition of environmental stewardship and leverages the best-available western and traditional knowledge. Together with the federal government, industry, and neighbouring nations, the IMRC represents an Indigenous-led response to vastly improve environmental protections and marine safety to the benefit of Heiltsuk, the central coast, British Columbia, and Canada.

Download the full report here. 

OPEN LETTER: Ministry of Environment urged to consult Heiltsuk First Nation

OPEN LETTER: Ministry of Environment urged to consult Heiltsuk First Nation

Download the open letter

Bella Bella, B.C. (Monday, October 16) – Heiltsuk First Nation has issued an open letter inviting the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman, to Heiltsuk territory following statements he has made on Friday regarding marine spill cleanups, like the Nathan E Stewart spill in Heiltsuk Territory.

In the open letter, Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett notes the remote coastal nation looks forward to consultation on robust environmental impact assessments and discussing the regulations that will put in force the sections of the Environmental Management Act that will require polluters to conduct and finance comprehensive environmental impact assessments – something not currently required by law in British Columbia, but well within provincial jurisdiction.

ADVISORY: Traditional healing ceremony underway to mark one year anniversary of oil spill, restore balance

ADVISORY: Traditional healing ceremony underway to mark one year anniversary of oil spill, restore balance

For footage of ceremony, please contact media@heiltsuk.ca

Gale Passage, Heiltsuk Territory (Friday, October 13) – Heiltsuk hereditary leaders are gathering on the shores of Gale Passage where this time last year over 110,000 litres of diesel fuel, lubricants, heavy oils, other pollutants spilled into a harvest site of deep cultural significance, disrupting the lives and spirits of the entire nation and its ancestors.

Today, the leaders gather at the ancient village site to wash the spirits of first responders, harvesters, and ancestors harmed by the incident following a community-wide healing ceremony Thursday night in Bella Bella. (more…)

RELEASE: Response to statements by Ministry of Environment, Kirby Corporation

Response to statements by Ministry of Environment, Kirby Corporation

Bella Bella, B.C. (October 13, 2017) – This week marks the one-year anniversary of the fuel spill in Bella Bella’s Gale Passage.

To mark the occasion, Heiltsuk Tribal Council issued a press release noting that Kirby Corporation has been unwilling to meet requests for comprehensive post-spill research or a health impact assessment. Instead, the U.S.-owned corporation has purported to be proceeding with a limited environmental impact assessment, looking only at sampling and monitoring work conducted in a short period of time after the oil spill and a one-week period in early 2017. (more…)

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Heiltsuk Nation turning to courts in wake of spill and botched response

Heiltsuk Nation turning to courts in wake of spill and botched response

Case seeks to recover damages, challenge world class oil spill response

Bella Bella, BC (Wednesday, October 11, 2017) – This week marks the one-year anniversary of the oil spill in Bella Bella. With the community’s recovery efforts undermined by government and Kirby Corporation’s refusal to take responsibility for the spill and to cooperate in its aftermath, the nation has no option but to turn to the courts.

“The oil spill continues to be a catastrophic injury to our food sources, culture, and economy,” says Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Councillor, Marilyn Slett. “Thanks to Kirby Corporation and the governments of British Columbia and Canada, our community’s road to recovery keeps getting longer and longer.” (more…)

ADVISORY: Heiltsuk greets Canada C3 expedition with reconciliation agenda

ADVISORY: Heiltsuk greets Canada C3 expedition with reconciliation agenda

Friday, October 6, 2017 (Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory) – Media are advised that the Canada C3 Expedition will visit Bella Bella on Monday, October 9, as it nears the end of its 150-day journey.

Reconciliation has been a theme since the beginning of the voyage, which began in Toronto on June 1, with Heiltsuk Councillor Leona Humchitt aboard. The trip ends in Victoria on October 28, 2017.

“The Heiltsuk word for reconciliation is ‘haíɫcístut’, meaning to turn something around and make it right again,” says Councillor Humchitt. “If there’s one thing the first 150 years of Canada has taught me, it’s that reconciliation is the only path forward. With so much history behind us, and some formidable challenges ahead, the time has come to pull together.” (more…)

RELEASE: Heiltsuk Nation Responds to Federal Government’s Introduction of Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

Heiltsuk Nation Responds to Federal Government’s Introduction of Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

Bella Bella, B.C. (May 13, 2017) — Heiltsuk Nation applauds the federal government for introducing the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in the House of Commons. For years, Heiltsuk has been leading the fight to ban tankers and is now pleased to see progress towards legislation that would formalize a north coast oil tanker moratorium.

“We will be reviewing the details of the legislation, and we anticipate that this law will bolster our work to protect the lands and waters of our territory,” stated Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “The sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart in Heiltsuk waters this past October taught us many lessons, including how essential it is to improve marine safety on this coast. It will be an important milestone when Parliament approves a tanker moratorium.”

Last fall, the federal government unveiled its Oceans Protection Plan, committing $1.5 billion to a “world leading marine safety system” that will provide new economic and partnership opportunities.

“We look forward to building off the positive momentum of a tanker moratorium, and continuing to work with the federal government to ensure that the Oceans Protection Plan delivers tangible results for our communities and for this coast.” said Slett.