The Cosco Busan spill: one year later


At least 2,000 birds were killed and countless underwater plants and animals died or are still in peril.

The board that regulates ship pilots has concluded that human error was a factor in causing the accident, but an investigative team led by the U.S. Coast Guard also found a host of deficiencies in prevention, response and clean up efforts.

Some of those deficiencies have been addressed, some have not.

"We are on a collision course with a lack of funding to support our oil spill readiness and response efforts and we're going to need to address that quickly," Assm. Jared Huffman said.

Friday at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, Huffman, Baykeeper program director Sejal Choksi and Marin County Office of Emergency Services director Chris Godley talked about improvements and gaps.

Godley thinks the most important change is allowing local governments and community groups an equal role in response.

"Basically a playbook for the Bay Area has been modified to allow local goverment to come in and help incident management," Godley said.

Choksi thinks the single best piece of legislation to pass since the spill gives the state more authority to crack down, not on ships, but inland sources, like refineries and rail yards.

"In 2007 about half a million gallons of oil came from inland oil spills; that's about nine times the Cosco Busan," he said.

All three agree the biggest remaining problem will be finding funding for what still needs to be done.

"Not only do we need new technology, we were using 1960s technology, we also need funding," Choksi said.

With the state budget seemingly getting worse every day, there is no quick solution to the funding problem. But with ships crossing the Bay 5,500 times per year, another spill is not considered a matter of "if," but "when."

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