Com­plex is­sues, com­plex so­lu­tions

The Compass - - OPINION -

No mat­ter which way you fall on the is­sue, Pla­cen­tia Bay is a unique place that de­serves unique con­sid­er­a­tion. If var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments like Trans­port Canada, En­vi­ron­ment and Fisheries and Oceans are to be be­lieved, they are lis­ten­ing to the con­cerns of the stake­hold­ers of Pla­cen­tia Bay and are cog­nizant of the pos­si­bil­ity of an eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic dis­as­ter in the event of a large-scale oil spill in the bay, and are work­ing to pre­vent such a dis­as­ter from oc­cur­ring.

Ac­cord­ing to one re­port, Pla­cen­tia Bay faces the great­est risk of an oil spill in North Amer­ica, a risk that is, we hope, be­ing taken se­ri­ously.

While gov­ern­ment likes to think it has all the bases cov­ered, it in­vari­ably may not. That’s what con­cerns peo­ple and busi­ness own­ers in the area so much about the is­sue and why they brought those con­cerns to an Apr. 16 meet­ing in Pla­cen­tia.

Those who at­tended early were treated by the town of Pla­cen­tia to a screen­ing of a film called ‘Black Wa­ter’, which tells the story of the town of Valdez and the con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal ruin faced by the area af­ter the tanker ‘Exxon Valdez’ spilled some 10.8 mil­lion gal­lons of crude oil into Prince William Sound af­ter the ship struck a reef Mar. 24, 1989, some 20 years ago.

It is quite pos­si­ble the con­cerns of stake­hold­ers in Pla­cen­tia Bay were brought to life by this dra­matic and un­be­liev­able film, al­though one has to re­al­ize it did hap­pen and cer­tainly could again.

While there are dif­fer­ences be­tween Prince William Sound and Pla­cen­tia Bay – it is in the United States, which has dif­fer­ent rules, reg­u­la­tions and pri­or­i­ties than Canada, and it was 20 years ago so many im­prove­ments have likely occurred – there is a pos­si­bil­ity, no mat­ter how slight, that some­thing sim­i­lar could hap­pen to our shores.

While the risks may be less­ened with all the ad­vances that 20 year stretch has brought, and Canada, so far, has a very good record when it comes to oil spills, it does not help the sit­u­a­tion when gov­ern­ment is seen to be slow in re­spond­ing to con­cerns of the very peo­ple who work and live in the bay in ques­tion.

That is one of the things that hap­pened in Valdez and those peo­ple in that area are still deal­ing with the con­se­quences of bro­ken prom­ises, court de­lays, red tape and bu­reau­cratic non­sense.

The area’s wildlife has faced out­right dec­i­ma­tion of some species – the her­ring never re­turned – and oil still lingers on the beaches along Prince William Sound, and no one knows for how long.

Our gov­ern­ment must do ev­ery­thing in its power to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of a large- scale oil spill in Pla­cen­tia Bay, and that means tak­ing the con­cerns and sug­ges­tions of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion se­ri­ously.

Pla­cen­tia Bay is a rare bay with a large num­ber of com­pet­ing in­ter­ests, from seabirds to fish­er­men, aqua­cul­ture to tourism, oil and gas to dif­fi­cult weather. It is a com­plex ecosys­tem and needs its own com­plex re­sponse from gov­ern­ment.

There can be no cookie cut­ter so­lu­tion to the po­ten­tial prob­lem we face. El­iz­a­beth MacDon­ald, Ed­i­tor

Pla­cen­tia Char­ter

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