Salish Sea Stands!

On January 16th, more than 130 Lopez residents showed up at Odlin Park dock to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and protest the risks posed by the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline on all the waters that surround this island. Salish Sea protesters on the land, including members of the Swinomish tribe, were joined by activists who showed up in sailboats, row boats and kayaks.

“We are here today as a demonstration of our concerns for the earth, our homes, our waters, the Salish Sea,” said Friends of the San Juans President San Olson. “We are extremely vulnerable to shipping traffic accidents. We are very worried about the traffic and the danger that it poses to our lives and all marine creatures that live here.”

Organized by the Friends of the San Juans, the Salish Sea Stands gatherings attracted an estimated 400 people on Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, Shaw, Guemes, Fidalgo, and even Gabriola Island in British Columbia.  Protesters joined together on the interisland ferry and proudly held up signs that spelled out “Salish Sea Stands” as the ferry made stops at different islands.

 “Our environment is our economy. Our economy is our environment. We are here to protect that against oil shipments that are being proposed,” said San Juan County Councilman Jamie Stephens. “Our San Juan County is a giant roundabout for all the vessel traffic that goes through to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We have all the risks and none of the benefits.”

Approved by the Canadian Federal Government, the proposed pipeline project would result in an increase of crude oil tanker vessel traffic from 120 to 816 tankers per year through the waters surrounding San Juan islands. The pipeline would deliver diluted bitumen (sticky tar sands oil mixed with volatile organic diluents) from Alberta, Canada to Burnaby, near Vancouver, B.C. Some of the oil will also be delivered via an existing spur pipeline to the BP refinery in Cherry Point, near Bellingham, Washington, where the oil will be loaded onto tankers for export.

“We are not just one effort or one small group of people against the pipeline. We are a localized response to the proposed oil shipment that will hurt our land,” said Kai Sanburn, Lopez coordinator of Salish Sea Stands. “Standing with us are all other movements around the country and around the globe who are trying to stop fossil fuel disruptions of our planet.”

To address the consequences of expanded pipelines, 200 people from the San Juan Islands and greater Salish Sea region attended a rally on February 13th at the State Capitol in Olympia to urge their elected officials to support the Oil Transportation Safety Bills (House Bill 1611/Senate Bill 5462).

Faced with a shrinking budget for oil spill responders, a major accident would significantly impact the state’s maritime economy, which supports 148,000 jobs. A spill would also be devastating to first responders, property values, outdoor tourism, export (due to closed shipping lanes), and the environment.

Pipeline proposals would increase international shipping by 37%, turning the region into a tanker highway.  With an 800% proposed increase, the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would result in the greatest oil spill risk over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass in San Juan County.

“The whole state depends on oil spill free waters. Oil transportation safety protects public health, our economy and our Orca,” said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director at Friends of the San Juans.

Rally attendees carried 86 life-size posters of orca fins — one for each living member of J, K and L pods, including Lolita in captivity and the 7 lost in 2016. An oil spill is one of the biggest threats to the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Rally participants also met with their legislators to ask them to enact the toughest regulations possible to protect our Salish Sea and support the Oil Transportation Safety Bills.  Speakers included Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans;  Washington State Senators Kevin Ranker and Reuven Carlyle, Representatives Kristine Lytton, Beth Doglio, Joe Fitzgibbon; Jay Manning, President of the Washington Environmental Council and past Director of Washington Department of Ecology; Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Sound Keeper; with musical performances by Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz of Irthlingz.

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