Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Zealand Tries to Avoid a Rescue Bill

New Zealand Tries to Avoid a Rescue Bill

From the The Antarctica Blog

Tourism in Antarctica isn't like tourism in other extreme environments - in some ways, it's much more dangerous.

Take any indicator - temperature, ocean conditions, accessibility - and Antarctica in a sense wins because it is colder, icier, and more difficult to get to than anywhere else. So it makes sense that New Zealand would try to block an adventurous rower from his plans to row around Antarctica by himself.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), the branch of government responsible for marine safety, would be responsible for rescuing the rower, Oliver Hicks, in case of an accident. MNZ believes that an accident is almost inevitable because of the harsh conditions on the Southern Ocean. Hicks will be using a boat that is powered by rowing but has cabins in which he can sleep, prepare food, and store supplies.

The boat is also allegedly designed to withstand Southern Ocean conditions.MNZ has great reason to be skeptical of Hicks' plans, however.

Previous attempts have resulted in accidents requiring rescue, and in one case an adventurer drowned. Rescue missions are costly and put rescuers themselves in danger. Hicks' journey would take him 500 days and would cover 24,000 square kilometers, or just under 15,000 miles.

He plans to halt for a few months during the brutal Antarctic winter on the island of South Georgia.Hicks' response to New Zealand's refusal to let him set out on his journey was to travel to Australia.

Australian officials are hardly excited about the project, but unlike their New Zealand counterparts cannot stop him from leaving. If he needs rescuing, MNZ will still be on the hook.

Hicks has already accomplished some impressive feats of solo rowing - he is the only person to have rowed from America to the United Kingdom alone - and feels confident that he is capable of completing his mission and staying safe.This incident underscores the need for special tourism policies for Antarctica.

The human desire to undertake difficult and dangerous adventures is admirable, but is disregarding the wishes of those who would have to rescue you also admirable? It's not as if MNZ could just ignore Hicks in the event of an accident, even if he wanted them to do so. It seems a shame that governments are hamstrung in this way.

While this type of tourism doesn't represent the kind of environmental threat that we at ASOC are most concerned about, it does point to the overall lack of regulation for Antarctic tourism that would protect both people and the environment.

Laws and rules no doubt deaden the souls of expeditioners, but they keep people safe and prevent unnecessary crises.

Posted by Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition at 7:31 AM


Fight against historic flood protects city

Record flooding of the Stillaguamish River filled low-lying areas south of the Stanwood city limits, leaving Marine Drive under more than 3 feet of water last week.

“It was close,” said Stanwood Camano Fire and Rescue (SCFR) Chief Mike Ganz Friday morning. “We are finally out of the woods.”

River gauges showed the Stillaguamish to be at or near record depth by 6 p.m. Thursday. An emergency earthen wall along SR 532 held back the cresting flood, and with the cooperation of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), the city sandbagged the tracks and Marine Drive to keep east Stanwood dry.

By Thursday evening, the governor’s office had declared a state of emergency for most of Snohomish County.

On Friday morning, it seemed as if the worst had passed.

After consultation with BNSF officials, tracks were reopened by 10 a.m. On Monday, Fort Freberg, a 7-foot-tall emergency dike named for retired firefighter Jack Freberg, still stands as a reminder of the Herculean effort that saved the city.

Mike Simmons, SCFR emergency manager, said he is in no hurry to remove the fortification. “You really don’t want to pull these things down too quickly,” said Simmons. Ganz credits the volunteers who worked alongside city and emergency crews.

“These folks — they’re awesome,” he said. “They did a fantastic job.”

According to Ganz, many different agencies and individuals — some from other counties — worked hand-in-hand to prevent a tragedy.

In addition, inmate work crews from Monroe Correctional Complex worked with city crews filling sandbags and providing them to residents.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked alongside city and county crews to shore up temporary protective dikes and repair levees.

“They helped plug a break near 95th Avenue NW,” said Ganz. Rebecca Hover, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said rescue teams were deployed swiftly to prevent the loss of life.

“We responded to dozens of calls, but it’s impossible to say how many calls we went on or how many people we rescued — there’s really no way to keep count,” said Hover. “Rescuers would get a call to go to one house to help people out and then they’d find more people who needed help out of the area or neighborhood.”

Most of the calls involved people needing help out of their houses or businesses; they also helped people who got stuck in their vehicles as they tried to drive through the flood waters, she said.

Christian Davis, North County Fire/EMS public information officer, said their crews were kept busy with rescue operations.

“We had nine water rescue calls, with 14 victims removed from the flooded areas,” said Davis. “We (also) assisted with a sandbagging request by DEM (Department of Emergency Management) for the city of Stanwood.”

One unique moment, said Davis, was when a 100-gallon propane tank washed up on the shore in the Warm Beach area.

Crews secured the tank, stopped the leak and notified a company for its removal, he said. Stanwood’s emergency operations center went into action Wednesday morning and remained open until 4 p.m. Friday.

“The final damage estimates haven’t come in yet,” said Simmons. “Within the city limits, it will probably be very low.”

Most of the real damage happened to homes and farms south of Stanwood, he said. For many, the days and weeks ahead will mean clean-up and salvage operations. Claims for assistance should be started immediately, said Simmons. Only damage from the floods occurring on or after Jan. 6 should be reported.

“The primary focus now is to compile damage reports from Snohomish County residents and businesses to qualify for federal disaster aid and speed relief to our citizens,” he said.

“Do not wait for a professional estimate of cost or an insurance adjustor document to fill these forms out.”

Receding water has allowed for the reopening of Marine Drive, but several streets remained navigable only by boat at NEWS deadline.

Dianne White, Stanwood mayor, said she is filled with pride after witnessing the ‘flood fight’ play out.

“The flood was an event that showcased the quality of the citizens of Stanwood,” she said. The seamless response of emergency crews and the scope of volunteerism prevented disaster on a wider scale, she said.

“Without the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, we would have lost our waste water treatment plant,” said White.

Flood waters entered offices at the plant, though damages are reported as minimal. Water processing and quality were not affected.

“The fire department’s Support 99 group as well as the Salvation Army worked tirelessly to meet the needs of victims, volunteers and EOC workers throughout the event,” she said. White applauded the efforts of Red Cross volunteers, Stanwood/Camano School District personnel and staff from Josephine care facility whose residents were evacuated to Stanwood High School.

“What distinguishes Stanwood is the ‘can do’ attitude of our citizens and businesses,” said White. “We had over 400 sandbag volunteers, who filled bags at Index Sensors and Twin City Foods parking lots.”

White said she is grateful for food provided to volunteers by QFC, the family of Carolyn Lund, and numerous citizens.

Flood gates erected to help drain the flood performed better than expected. On Friday, the gates were draining at 1,500 cubic feet per second and lowered the flood water by 46 inches in one day.

“This new addition to our flood fighting arsenal is serving to get Marine Drive and the railroad tracks open much sooner than past years,” she said. “The Stillaguamish Flood District and Max Albert are to be commended for their persistence in getting this structure built.”

Chuck Hazleton, Stillaguamish Flood Control District commissioner, said he was overwhelmed by the success of the flood control gates in operation near Marine Drive.

“The flood gates are working better than we had expected,” said Hazelton. “The velocity of the discharge is more than we anticipated.”

Built in September 2007, the control system — a concrete structure — has 10 gates to create a nonporous channel back into the river.

The overall project cost $175,000, and the city subsidized $30,000 towards the construction of the gated system.

“It was definitely money well spent,” said Hazelton.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D), of Camano Island, said the legacy of this flood event will be how residents saved their city.

“One of the merits of living in a small community is how your neighbors reach out to help,” said Haugen. “I am so proud of the way people in the Stanwood area rallied to help each other.”

Haugen said she believes Stanwood was spared because of all the people who helped. “It's really tragic how many people in our state were affected,” she said. “You just can't imagine how bad this is until you've experienced it.”

The flooding was yet another blow to a region already hit hard by bad weather, said Haugen.


Coast Guard warns mariners be aware of ice conditions in Delaware Bay

PHILADELPHIA - The Coast Guard Captain of the Port Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia has set ice condition three Thursday and is warning mariners to be aware of ice in the Delaware Bay and River.

Ice condition three is set when weather conditions are favorable for the formation of ice in navigable waters. All masters, ship agents, and owners and operators of all vessels, marine facilities and marinas should review and adhere to the seasonal ice procedures listed below. These criteria were developed in partnership with the Mariners’ Advisory Committee for the Delaware Bay and River. Ship agents should generally act as liaison between the Coast Guard and their vessels.

When ice is present, but less than two inches, vessels must have a propulsion system with a minimum of 1000 horsepower, and be able to maneuver un-assisted through the ice without needing to stop, back off and ram the ice.

When ice is present in the C and D canal, only steel-hulled vessels whose propulsion systems are in excess of 1000 horsepower may transit the canal.

Vessel convoys will not be directed for ice or ice build of less than two inches, provided vessels can maintain headway. For ice conditions of two inches or greater, the Captain of the Port, in conjunction with the MAC, will consider implementing a plan that includes directing vessel convoys.

Vessel moorings should be checked frequently to ensure the vessel is adequately moored.

Vessels at anchor should maintain their engines on standby at all times.

Vessels at anchor should ensure that proper bridge watches are stood at all times.

Vessel sea chests should be checked regularly for ice buildup and precautions should be taken to ensure that the sea chests are kept clear.

The Captain of the Port Sector Delaware Bay may establish additional requirements for specific geographic areas of the Captain of the Port Zone if conditions warrant such restrictions.

Please refer to the Sector Delaware Bay website for additional information regarding ice operations within the Sector Delaware Bay zone at http://www.uscg.mil/d5/sectDelawarebay or by calling our Sector Delaware Bay ice line at (215)-271-4995.

If you have any questions regarding the contents of this bulletin or the expectations of the Captain of the Port, please contact the Waterways Management staff at (215) 271-4889 or the Situational Unit Controller at (215) 271-4807.

Marine Salvage Basics