Sooke won’t get ocean spill response base

Harbour to shallow for draft of boats, says federal agency

The federal agency responsible for spill clean up on the B.C. coast will acquire five new bases along the South Coast oil tanker route and add 100 new jobs if the National Energy Board approves the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Western Canada Marine Response Corp. communications manager Michael Lowry told district council last week no bases will be established in Sooke.

New spill-response bases would be located at ports in Delta, Nanaimo, Sidney, Ucluelet and Beecher Bay, he said. The $100-million investment is being paid for by a fee charged by Trans Mountain to shippers.

Sooke was originally considered as a base, but the harbour is too shallow for the boats required. Sooke currently has a cache of oil-response equipment and that would be upgraded.

Under the federal Shipping Act, the Western Canada Marine Response Corp. has an 18- to 72-hour response time in local waters, depending on the size of the spill.

“We’re well below those [minimum] standards, but those are what Transport Canada expects,” Lowry said.

Kinder Morgan hopes to triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of its existing Trans Mountain line by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe between Edmonton and Burnaby. The expansion would increase the number of tankers on the South Coast.

Last fall Sooke voters passed a referendum in opposition to the expansion of oil traffic through coastal B.C. waters.

“[The people of Sooke] are very passionate about our coastline and our waters,” said acting mayor Kevin Pearson. “We can appreciate quicker response times, but there many issues underlying it.”

The National Energy Board is expected to make a decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in January.