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Groups divided over Bay Area's oil spill preparedness

May 11, 2010 7:19:26 PM PDT
Two and a half years after the Cosco Busan spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay, environmentalists and first responders are still divided over whether the region is adequately prepared for a major spill.

At a conference in downtown Oakland aimed at preparing for a better response to future spills, U.S. Coast Guard officials and others said there were many lessons learned from the 2007 Cosco Busan spill.

The region has new visibility guidelines dictating when vessels are allowed to travel in foggy conditions; there also are new plans in place to coordinate volunteers and to alert local governments to spills -- all things that went wrong following the Cosco Busan spill.

"We're much better off than we were before the Cosco Busan; clearly on the networking and communication side of things," Coast Guard Capt. Paul Gugg said.

But Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, said the full impact of the spill still remain unknown, especially how it affected local fishing, including crab and herring.

"There have been some improvements because of legislation and the lessons learned from Cosco Busan, but obviously we have a long ways to go," Grader said.

He says that means training fishermen, the people who know the bay best and whose livelihoods are most affected by oil spills, how to respond so that something like the Cosco Busan never happens again

"It became a disaster because we couldn't respond in time," he said.

Some of the impacts of the Cosco Busan are still unknown, for example, how crabs will fare living in the oiled waters, the science is still out. What is certain is the price tag -- the cleanup costs total more than $80 million, and that number is still rising.


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