A time of renewal for the Islands Oil Spill Association | Guest column

By Ken Carrasco, Secretary, IOSA Board of Directors

For many of us, the first of the year represents renewal, a time for renewed health, purpose, and vigor in their lives. This has also been true for the Islands Oil Spill Association in striving to return to its mission of responding to oil spills in the San Juan Islands. It has been a very difficult several months for IOSA and the reader may recall that the organization was very close to disbanding altogether.

During the month of December, however, an expanded board of directors stepped forward with a determination to lead IOSA toward a rejuvenated role as a group of community-based volunteers who serve as the first-line response to spilled oil in our local waters. The board realized that leaving our wonderful waters vulnerable to spilled chemicals was simply not acceptable. The ecological and economic effects could be horrendous.

We realized that the path to once again serve as an effective spill response organization would not be easy, but would be both difficult and essential. A first step in this commitment was a presentation on Dec. 10 to the San Juan County Council by one of the board members Ken Carrasco and Brendan Cowan, director of the county’s Department of Emergency Management, about IOSA’s situation and future potential. This testimony was, of course, recorded and is available for viewing at the county council website.

Another step was to expand the board of directors from five to its current nine members. The board decided to create an advisory “IOSA Action Team” composed of volunteers who have a variety of skills and interests that will contribute to rebuilding lOSA. Organized and led by Cowan, the action team will begin meeting early this year to set initial objectives and strategies for a “2019 Action Plan.”

The board and the action team have embraced the mission of restoring IOSA as a fully capable proficient spill response organization. The initial focus in 2019 will be to rebuild IOSA’s finances and ensure sustainability, create a leadership structure with clear cut roles and responsibilities, and develop a plan for proficient operations. Once the organization is functional, we anticipate additional calls for volunteers to bolster IOSA’s front line response staff, solicit help with trainings and exercises, and ensure that there will be adequate numbers of trained responders in place around the county to safely, promptly, and competently respond to a wide range of spill scenarios in the San Juan Islands.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the action team is urged to contact Cowan at brendanc@sanjuandem.net or at 360-370-7612. Also, please keep yourself updated on IOSA’s progress or to find opportunities to volunteer at our continually updated website, iosaonline.org/updates/.