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How do you plan for an oil spill on the Sumas River?

Oil train cars sit Oct. 8, 2014 at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop.
Oil train cars sit Oct. 8, 2014 at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop. The Bellingham Herald file

State officials released plans Tuesday for how best to respond to oil spills along several train routes and pipelines in Washington state, including along the Sumas River.

Five out of 11 new draft plans in Western Washington will address areas of potential spills from pipelines and railroads. Six other plans will cover areas on the east side of the mountains along oil train routes.

The 79-page Sumas plan plan covers 53 square miles in Whatcom County, including the cities of Everson and Nooksack. Last fall, Ecology also issued a similar response plan for the Nooksack River, which covers 256 square miles.

The “geographic response plans” aim to take the guesswork out of the response during the first 12 hours of a spill, according to the Washington state Department of Ecology. They signal where to place oil containment equipment, which agencies and governments to notify, and how to protect wildlife habitat.

The plans are part of a larger effort to provide a coordinated response to oil spills in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, according to Dale Jensen, who manages Ecology’s Spills Program. Ecology already has similar response plans in place for marine waters, in case of an accident involving tanker ships and refineries.

The new plans would guide response to accidents like the major spill along the Columbia River last year and results from the 2015 Oil Transportation Safety Act signed by Gov. Jay Inlsee.

Ecology is accepting comments on the plans until June 15.

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