The first annual Salish Sea Shared Waters Forum was held in Bellingham in October 2018. All levels of government on both sides of the border — tribes, First Nations, environmental groups, and industry — were invited, and over 150 participants attended. The first Forum focused on advancing collective knowledge about current policies and practices and potential safeguards and began a cross-border conversation about:
- Gaps and conflicts in oil spill policies.
- Opportunities to reduce oil spill risk, including requiring tug escorts for oil tankers, articulated tug barges, and towed vessels or barges.
- Enhancing oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response capacity.
- Whether an emergency response system, similar to the Neah Bay emergency tug, will decrease oil spill risk and how to fund such a shared system.
In 2019, ESHB 1578 directs us to discuss options for a shared emergency response system in advance of the Salish Sea Shared Waters Forum with:
- all potentially affected federally recognized Indian treaty tribes; and
- relevant organizations such as (but not limited to) the Coast Salish Gathering.
Generally (not limited to 2019), the forum must also address impacts of vessel traffic on treaty-protected fishing.
The Forum serves as a platform for open dialogue to exchange information regarding minimizing the risk and impacts of spills in the Salish Sea. It is a non-voting and non-decision-making entity. The Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force, of which Washington and British Columbia are founding members, worked with Ecology and the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to establish and hold the Forum.
Deliverable: Hold at least one facilitated meeting per year until July 2021.