The waters surrounding Isle Royale will be busier than normal this week. The United States Coast Guard is conducting a routine test of its Area Contingency Plan. The exercise is designed to measure the preparedness of state, local, and federal agencies if an accident were to happen on Lake Superior or other navigable waterways in the area.
The scenario simulates what would happen if two ships were to collide and disburse a hazardous chemical. Area Contingency Plans have been a requirement since the wreck of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1990.
Participating agencies include the Canadian and American Coast Guards, Houghton County, the State of Michigan, private business, and tribal leaders. It is not the only emergency scenario that has been gameplanned locally in recent weeks. Houghton County Memorial Airport Manager Dennis Hext says his facility received high marks from inspectors who oversaw an exercise done earlier this month.
The full release is below.
HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Coast Guard is leading a large-scale spill response exercise at Michigan Technological University this week, bringing together partner agencies and private entities to test oil spill response readiness.
The exercise, designed to test the Area Contingency Plan, will simulate two ships colliding in the vicinity of Isle Royale, subsequently spilling their cargos. Participants from the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards will establish a unified command with representatives from the state of Michigan, Houghton County, tribal leaders, and private industry.
Overseeing the exercise is Marine Safety Unit Duluth’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Frances Smith. “The remote nature of Isle Royale certainly presents the team with some unique challenge,” but she says she’s confident in the team’s abilities. “We work with our partners throughout the year to refine the Area Contingency Plan. This exercise will give us all an opportunity to demonstrate what we’ve learned together and identify any potential gaps that may exist. The responsibility that we all share is not lost on anyone.”
After the 1990 Exon Valdez spill in Alaska, the federal government charged the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency to run exercises that simulate oil spill and hazardous material releases into the varying environments throughout the country. Including maritime stakeholders in the area being tested has become a staple of simulated and real-world responses.