Brendan Cowan from the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management shares his appreciation for all of the people involved in the Aleutian Isle recovery efforts.
After 40 days of challenging and complex work, the Aleutian Isle has been lifted fully out of the water and onto a barge for transport to mainland.
The islands are so appreciative of the large team of people that made this happen and are grateful the operation happened without serious injury to any responder.
Despite this effort perhaps appearing simple at first glance, it is difficult to convey the scale and complexity of what occurred and the challenges faced along the way.
First, thanks to Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. The ingenuity, courage, and perseverance of their team, along with the Manson Marine Construction crew, was remarkable to witness. US Ecology capably handled much of the on-water pollution control, with the help of Marty Chevalier and his crew, the Islands’ Oil Spill Association, Deb Fritz and TowBoatUS out of Friday Harbor, and Pintail Marine.
Focus Wildlife’s team spent days and days on the water helping to minimize wildlife impacts, and a whole team of local marine mammal experts from the Whale Museum, SeaDoc, and others were on the water or on call throughout to help with orca monitoring and deterrence.
The local community really stepped up, housing and feeding responders and showing island hospitality to responders who spent more than a month away from their homes and families to support the response. In particular, Candace Ragsdale and the rest of the team at Roche Harbor were remarkable with their support amidst their busiest time of year. San Juan Island Fire & Rescue shared bunk space with responders and Friday Harbor Labs went above and beyond with finding sleeping space. Many other local hotels and rental operators worked extra hard to accommodate the team.
Last but not least, a huge thank you to our agency partners who literally embedded themselves in our community over this response. The U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest has had staff on-island from day one, and they’ve truly been a pleasure to work with. Washington State Department of Ecology’s team has been a calm and steady presence and their field staff have dropped everything in their lives to mobilize to the island. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife team were committed and highly competent. Swinomish Tribe has strongly supported this effort from the beginning and their patrol boats have been a steady presence on the water. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have supported with weather and tidal modeling, and Canadian responders from the Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans have provided expert support as well.
And finally, I want to mention that the owners of the vessel have been vested and committed to supporting this response from the very beginning. A common and understandable reaction following a crisis of any kind is to find someone to blame or vilify, and while an investigation is ongoing, rest assured that the local Washington family that owns this boat has been devastated by the repercussions but 100 percent devoted to the response.
There is always a danger when compiling lists of leaving someone vital off — and to those I have, just know that the work that went into this was a true testament to the amazing things that happen when good people put their minds and hearts to something and work smoothly together to achieve it. Thank you one and all!