BY BRIAN J. DAVIS, OFFICE OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
NAVSUP FLC PUGET SOUND
Fuel technicians from NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Puget Sound Fuel Department at Manchester Fuel Depot (MFD) participated in a Joint fuel spill response exercise in the waters off of Blake Island, Washington, June 6.
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NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound fuel technicians Rick Kozlik (left) and Dom Knight from Manchester Fuel Depot deploy a fuel containment boom at the mouth of salmon creek during a Joint fuel spill exercise in Puget Sound June 6. In addition to using booms to contain the actual spill, responders also set booms to protect critical coastline areas. –photo by Brian Davis
Agencies involved in the exercise included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Seattle District, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) 13th District, Navy Region Northwest, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington State Parks, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
The drill scenario involved a coordinated emergency response to a simulated fuel spill from an unknown source posing a hazard to area wildlife and habitats in Puget Sound and along the nearby shoreline, also threatening tribal fishing grounds.
The location of the spill was in an area of Puget Sound off of Blake Island, Washington, a 475-acre island and state park east of Manchester.
With guidance and coordination from USCG District Response and Advisory Team officials, a Joint response team rehearsed procedures for isolating, containing and cleaning up the fuel.
Interoperability was the theme for the day’s events. Each agency showcased its own area of expertise, highlighting how effective a team approach would be in a real-world situation.
“Spill response is something that we don’t take lightly,” said Capt. Philippe Grandjean, NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound commanding officer. “It’s great to see all of these agencies out here working together.”
Although the sun was out and the winds were light, the exercise participants had to work through challenges presented by the area’s arduous current and tidal conditions.
“The scenario was specifically designed to make us adapt and problem solve while responding to what would be an extreme situation,” said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McCarthy, NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound regional fuels officer.
The crew of the USACE Motor Vessel Puget deployed a pair of 300-foot floating containment booms as a rapid response skimmer vessel operated by NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound fuel technicians, known in the trade as “fuelies,” simulated recovering the spilled fuel from the water.
In the Yukon Harbor area, other boats and a shore party from MFD deployed and anchored additional booms to isolate and protect critical areas where salmon creeks flow into Puget Sound.
Participating in the Joint exercise allowed the fuel depot to practice working alongside other agencies with the goal of enhancing the response capabilities of all.
“We were able to harness a variety of resources throughout the region to demonstrate how several entities can come together quickly and respond in an organized, choreographed fashion,” said McCarthy.
The training also met MFD’s biannual requirement to test and evaluate the facility’s contingency plan.
Evaluators from the Washington Department of Ecology Spill Prevention, Preparedness & Response Program were aboard the MFD command boat to observe the exercise.
Along with hands-on training for responders, the drill offered an opportunity for multiple agencies to practice communication, management, and coordination of assets to mount a combined response or to support another agency’s operations.
“We’re much more effective if we work together and leverage our capabilities to effectively respond to an incident,” said Col. John Buck, district commander of USACE Seattle District.
NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound’s fuel department operates MFD, the largest single-site Department of Defense fuel terminal in the continental U.S.
With its specialized fuel technicians and fleet of fast-response craft, the facility is considered a key asset for the Navy’s regional spill response capabilities.
Providing fuel to the military and government agencies is what MFD is primarily known for, but the facility’s staff is also active in community improvement initiatives, with a constant focus on protecting the environment.
“The Puget Sound region isn’t just a nice place to visit, it’s our home, and we have a responsibility to the community to keep it beautiful. Exercises like this allow us to put tabletop training and classroom discussions into practice to ensure we are always prepared,” said McCarthy.