The diesel spill near the waters of Bella Bella has the Premier blasting the federal government for what she says is an “inadequate response”.
Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett calls the incident, in which a tug pushing a massive fuel barge ran aground in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest a “nightmare”.
Premier Christy Clark argues B.C. has said for years the type of response isn’t enough.
“It’s not adequate for what we have now going up and down our coast. Cruise ships are coming up and down, fuel supply ships, many of them don’t even originate in Canada and go by our coast. We need an increased Coast Guard presence, and British Columbia has been cheated by the federal government for decades now.”
Clark says Ottawa has been spending more on Coast Guard resources for the East Coast, and that B.C. is getting short changed in the deal.
“We don’t have adequate spill response now, and I think the critics who came out today are right about that, I agree with them.”
It’s still unclear exactly how much diesel leaked from the sunken tug Nathan E. Stewart, however Texas-based operators Kirby Offshore say it had just under 200,000 litres aboard when it left port.
The Heiltsuk First Nation says the spill confirms its worst fears about marine disasters and spill response in the area.
It says the tug sank in a sensitive area filled with clam beds that the Nation relies on for food and its winter economy.
Cheif Slett says the incident has played out exactly as First Nations had warned energy regulators during hearings over pipeline and tanker projects for the coast, and that it’s a miracle it happened when the tug’s fuel barge was empty.
The Nathan E. Stewart is an Articulated Tug Barge (ATB), a 100 foot vessel that pushes a barge capable of carrying at least 5.5 million litres (35,000 barrels) of petroleum product.
The vessel regularly plies the inside passage, and was southbound from Alaska when it struck.
With files from Simon Little