OLYMPIA – Four proposals designed to enlist volunteers in preparing for and responding to oil spills in marine waters will receive funding through the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The grant program, jointly managed by WDFW and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, will distribute $196,000 provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support actions outlined in the state’s Action Agenda for Puget Sound.
Volunteer opportunities funded by this year’s grant include counting birds for baseline population assessments to learning how to decontaminate oiled wildlife, said Patricia Jatczak, who manages the state grant program.
“Volunteers can play an important role in helping our state offset the risks that oil spills pose to fish and wildlife,” Jatczak said. “These grants are designed to expand the network of citizens who can assist professional responders before and after a spill occurs.”
More than 20 billion gallons of oil and hazardous chemicals are transported through the state each year, presenting a significant risk of a major spill, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.
Jatczak said the grants were directed to applicants representing northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where the likelihood of a catastrophic oil spill is the greatest. The four applicants selected to receive funding were:
- Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team ($52,660): Based at the University of Washington, COASST has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to establish baseline data for bird mortalities in coastal areas of the state. The grant will help to expand the baseline – an important tool in assessing future bird losses – and provide training for team members who respond to oil spills.
- Seattle Audubon Society ($48,479): This project expands the Puget Sound Seabird Survey to include the Strait of Juan de Fuca and supports training for volunteers to provide real-time monitoring and data collection on sea birds.
- Swinomish Indian Tribal Community ($35,003): The tribe will establish standard operating procedures for responding to an oil spill within or adjacent to the Swinomish Reservation. The grant will also support identification of priority habitat, proposed updates to regional response plans and training for employees and volunteers who respond to oil spills.
- Northwest Straits Foundation ($60,000): This project will provide training for citizens and local officials on region’s coordinated oil spill response system and spill response techniques. It will also provide hands-on opportunities for volunteers to be involved in preparing for and responding to spills.
Since 2010, the state grant program has received $12 million in funding from the EPA National Estuary Program to support the state’s Puget Sound Action Agenda. The funding has supported about 30 projects, ranging from eelgrass restoration to the removal of derelict fishing nets.