COOS COUNTY — In the political arena, Jordan Cove has steadily gained steam.
From a law enforcement’s point of view, waiting to know whether or not Jordan Cove will get a green light for its project isn’t an option. They have to start preparing now.
For Staff Sergeant Doug Strain, he is planning for it to become a reality because that is his job. He is in charge of the Combined Services Unit, a contracted security team for Jordan Cove through the Coos County Sheriff’s Office. He and 21 other deputies will keep tanker ships safe as they go in and out of the bay with liquefied natural gas.
Though the unit formed two years ago, Strain and other local emergency services personnel throughout Coos County have been undergoing training and education to prepare for an LNG terminal in the bay. In fact, Jordan Cove has been providing that training for years.
“Because this has been drawn out for so long, people say, ‘Call me when it comes,’” Strain said about the prospect of Jordan Cove building a local LNG terminal. “But the community should be aware of what their emergency responders have done and what they know.”
LNG fire demonstration
In 2009, local fire chiefs at the time and other emergency personnel viewed an LNG fire demonstration at Texas A&M.
“They are seeing this demonstration of what happens when you have an LNG fire,” Strain said as he showed The World video of the scenario.
Near the small crowd in attendance stood near a 2,000 gallon LNG pool dug into the dirt.
“LNG is minus 260 degrees,” Strain said. “In order to get it heated enough to get it to vaporize, they are spraying water on it. They want to set this on fire and only the vapor will do that, not the liquid.”
CCSO Captain Gabriel Fabrizio explained that LNG is not flammable at minus 260 degrees while it is in the tanks.
“It has to vaporize first,” he said.
In the video, a fireman walked through the edge of the vapor cloud with a 10-foot pole. At the end of that pole was a flare as he tried to set it on fire.
“He is waving that flare in the vapor to find the right density,” Strain said. “Your density of natural gas has to be between five and fifteen percent in the atmosphere for it to ignite. He is looking for a spot of the right density. If that was gasoline, it is a whole different animal.”
When the vapor finally caught fire, it went out a few seconds later. To get it going again, the fireman returned with the flare.
To put it out, the pit was surrounded by large fans that blew out Aqueous Film Foaming Foam (AFFF), which is a common fire suppressant.
“You put this foam over the fuel source, it denies oxygen to the fire and puts it out,” Strain said. “It’s not easy to get one started even with a lit flare, though.”
On top of the demonstration, Strain and others went out to the eastern seaboard to view other LNG terminals, paid for by Jordan Cove. Strain traveled to Maryland and the Gulf Coast.
“Initially when LNG came to town, I was not in favor of the project,” he said. “It was a major change to what our bay is used to, but after doing research and seeing safety measures, the footprint they have, I’m a lot less concerned.”
In fact, he recognized that there is an LNG terminal in Japan that was impacted by the 2011 earthquake. The 9.0 quake closed the terminal for six months due to flooding, but not damage.
“It flooded the control room,” Strain said. “Electronics and salt water don’t do well and it fried everything. Fukishima was impacted by the shaking, but did you hear about LNG in the news? There’s a lot of little information people need to know for the safety of the community.”
The Combined Services Unit
When Jordan Cove first began talking about opening an LNG terminal, which is still moving through the permit process now, it was going to hire private security to work in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard.
“But from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office’s perspective, why contract to do safety and security around the terminal with an outside source when you can have deputies who work here every day?” Strain said. “That was a big driver of the CSU.”
The biggest push behind the CSU was the 2005 Energy Policy Act moved forward by congress. Before it was enacted, LNG terminals could open up a location and it was anyone’s guess as to who bore the burden of cost.
In Boston, there is an LNG terminal downtown and has been in operation for over 50 years. According to Strain, one of the biggest challenges they found was not the terminal itself, but security surrounding the shipping.
“The terminal is responsible for itself,” Strain explained. “Once the product is loaded onto the ship, the ship owner is responsible. So you can have multiple ship owners in the area filling up with product and leaving, but who is responsible for security?”
Ideally it would be the U.S. Coast Guard, but after 9/11 it found itself in more of a security role than ever before.
To take the burden off an over-extended Coast Guard, the 2005 energy policy made the terminal responsible for the product since it controlled who traveled to its port of call.
“It could add additional cost to the product and build cost revenue streams to be delivered to emergency services,” Strain said. “The act specifically talks about safety and security on the water. From that, the other thing is it designed to do is develop a process a terminal applicant has to go through and that includes reaching out to local emergency responders to be part of the conversation.”
If Jordan Cove opens an LNG terminal, the unit will have been outfitted with 21 deputies who would provide extra security to the community first. As for keeping the terminal safe, Strain said they would use “good old-fashioned police work.”
“We have to build our see-something, say-something programs, make citizens a vital part of communication,” he said. “We will build a strong information exchange to make sure our CCSO is deeply ingrained in our community to support the health, happiness and help children grow up to be productive members here rather than moving to Portland or Los Angeles.”
When an LNG tanker leaves the bay, the CSU will escort the vessels in and out. The unit members train by escorting chip ship out of the bay.
“When you have a ship coming in, it takes an hour and a half to get to the jaws of the jetty,” Strain said. “If you have a ma and pop boat out crabbing and remember, I’m from here, if I know who they are, I won’t worry. If I know they aren’t a terrorist or someone wanting to do bad things to this tanker, they can continue what they are doing so long as they aren’t in the shipping channel.”
If he doesn’t recognize the boat and people on board, he will assess the vessel to see if it is low in the water or carrying explosives. If it is an unknown vessel and doesn’t look like a threat, he will put his boat between it and the LNG tanker and encourage it to go by.
“Once the ship is past, I will look for the next potential problem,” he said. “So long as they comply, they will see me for 40 to 50 seconds as we go by.”
Since forming the CSU, Strain said the unit has cost nearly $2 million by 2019 for equipment and training. If the terminal becomes fully operational, the unit will cost Jordan Cove $6 million to $8 million a year.
“Jordan Cove pays for this because they are the ones causing it to come about, which is the language in the 2005 policy act,” Strain said.
Since 2006, the county’s Emergency Response Planning group has made a point to meet on a quarterly or triannual basis to build out safety procedures and processes surrounding Jordan Cove.
“This tsunami zone issue, I’m not concerned,” Strain said. “I’m concerned about our community as a whole because I’m not sure the city is ready to take on 2,500 workers, but this project is going to be the safest place to be in the county because of the structure they are planning on doing.”
One of the pieces of infrastructure being built, if the project obtains its permits, is a north county substation that is being called the SORSC Building. The Southwestern Oregon Regional Safety Center will be equipped with a 911 center and serve as a backup office for the CCSO.
“Its technological capability will be state-of-the-art and built to withstand current tsunami and earthquake information,” Strain said. “Nothing in the county has been built to that standard except the Coos Bay Fire Station.”
The CCSO and CSU is concerned about protesters prior to the terminal being opened, if it opens, and hopes to quell any longstanding protests before they start.
“One day it may come and when it does, it will have a huge impact,” he said. “If groups want to hear us talk and explain what we’ve done and plan to do, we will come out and talk. We want to make sure we’re hearing our community’s concerns. We want to educate and want them to know what I know about this project to alleviate those concerns.”
Strain watched this last election closely and pointed out that one county commissioner ran against the project and one ran for it. The commissioner who ran against it lost.
“It was a 60/40 difference,” Strain said. “Coos County as a whole does not oppose this project. Based on those ballots and support of this project, it’s a good possibility that this will happen and we have to do our part to make it safe because we recognize the significant impact it would have on this community.”
To have Strain speak at a local group about LNG security planning, call the CCSO at 541-396-7800.
WASHINGTON — The partial government shutdown will almost certainly be handed off to a divided government to solve in the new year, as President Donald Trump sought to raise the stakes Friday and both parties traded blame in the weeklong impasse.
Agreement eludes Washington in the waning days of the Republican monopoly on power, and that sets up the first big confrontation between Trump and newly empowered Democrats. Trump is sticking with his demand for money to build a wall along the southern border, and Democrats, who take control of the House on Jan. 3, are refusing to give him what he wants.
Trump worked to escalate the showdown Friday, reissuing threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border to pressure Congress to fund the wall and to shut off aid to three Central American countries from which many migrants have fled.
"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with," he wrote in one of a series of tweets.
The president also signaled he was in no rush to seek a resolution, welcoming the fight as he heads toward his own bid for re-election in 2020. He tweeted Thursday evening that Democrats may be able to block him now, "but we have the issue, Border Security. 2020!"
Incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump canceled his plans to travel to Florida to celebrate New Year's at his private Mar-a-Lago club.
The shutdown is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors to stay home or work without pay, and many are experiencing mounting stress from the impasse. It also is beginning to pinch citizens who count on public services. Gates are closed at some national parks, new farm loans will be put on hold beginning next week, and in New York, the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts suspended work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers, including several civil lawsuits in which Trump himself is a defendant.
The Smithsonian Institution also announced that museums and galleries popular with visitors and locals in the nation's capital will close starting midweek if the partial shutdown drags on.
With another long holiday weekend coming and almost all lawmakers away from the Capitol there is little expectation of a quick fix.
"We are far apart," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CBS on Friday, claiming of Democrats, "They've left the table all together."
Mulvaney said Democrats are no longer negotiating with the administration over an earlier offer to accept less than the $5 billion Trump wants for the wall. Democrats said the White House offered $2.5 billion for border security, but that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence it wasn't acceptable.
"There's not a single Democrat talking to the president of the United States about this deal," Mulvaney said Friday
Speaking on Fox News and later to reporters, he tried to drive a wedge between Democrats, pinning the blame on House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
"My gut was that (Schumer) was really interested in doing a deal and coming to some sort of compromise. But the more we're hearing this week is that it's Nancy Pelosi who's preventing that from happening," he said, alleging that if Pelosi "cuts a deal with the president of any sort before her election on January 3rd she's at risk of losing her speakership, so we're in this for the long haul."
Pelosi has all but locked up the support she needs to win the gavel on Jan. 3 and there is also no sign of daylight between her and Schumer in the negotiations over government funding.
Mulvaney added of the shutdown: "We do expect this to go on for a while."
Democrats brushed off the White House's attempt to cast blame.
"For the White House to try and blame anyone but the president for this shutdown doesn't pass the laugh test," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer.
Pelosi vowed to pass legislation to reopen the nine shuttered departments and dozens of agencies now hit by the partial shutdown as soon as she takes the gavel, which is expected when the new Congress convenes.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill added that Democrats "are united against the President's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall" and said Democrats won't seriously consider any White House offer unless Trump backs it publicly because he "has changed his position so many times."
"While we await the President's public proposal, Democrats have made it clear that, under a House Democratic Majority, we will vote swiftly to re-open government on Day One," Hammill said in a statement.
But even that may be difficult without a compromise because the Senate will remain in Republican hands and Trump's signature will be needed to turn any bill into law.
Trump said during his campaign that Mexico would pay for his promised wall, but Mexico refuses to do so. It was unclear how Trump's threat to close the border would affect his efforts to ratify an amended North American free trade pact.
COOS COUNTY — In a presentation last week to Coos County Commissioners, the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative discussed the importance of preserving the dunes and restoring its lands.
ODRC outreach coordinator Jeff Malik informed commissioners of the work the group has been doing over the last year and cluing them in on its progress. Since 1941, about 65 percent of the dunes have been lost, he said.
The group’s monitoring committee, which inspects aerial records from the USDA Forest Service, has noticed slowly over time invasive plant species such as European beach grass and Scotch Broom has taken over much of the open sands of the dunes.
“A lot of groups and community members with very different viewpoints realized that these invasive grasses could really threaten the dunes,” Malik said. “So, in 2014 the Siuslaw National Forest convened the ODRC to work with other organizations and interested parties to protect and preserve the dunes.”
Since then, the group has hosted numerous volunteer work days, which gathers crews from various locations throughout Oregon to pull and remove invasive species from the dunes.
This year, approximately 18 work days took place with hundreds of volunteers aiding in clearing areas. The Bull Run OHV Trail near North Bend was among one of the locations which received a work crew.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the OHV/ATV community as well as a number of elected officials and environmental groups,” Malik said. “The biggest help we’ve gotten in Coos County has come from ATV groups including the Save the Riders Dunes in North Bend, who were a big part of our project on Bull Run.”
According to the presentation, the dunes could be lost in less than 100 years if action isn’t taken. The group focuses on maintaining various sites throughout the dunes which need improvement, raising awareness through various outreach campaigns and protecting existing area where dunes are healthy and thriving.
“The dunes shouldn’t only be sand,” Malik said. “There are naturally little pockets of wetlands, native plants and natural tree islands scattered about. But, what we are seeing are these invasive beach grasses turning everything into some uniform scrubby grass land.”
The dunes, which stretch from the California/Oregon border to the Columbia River, feature a unique ecosystem with over 400 species of wildlife, said Malik. The group focuses the section of the dunes which stretches from Coos Bay to Florence. In addition to the organized work days, the Forest Service has also begun bulldozing larger areas to remove beach grass followed by performing controlled burns or herbicide treatments.
Last year, Malik said the group received a letter of support from the Coos County Commissioners in its efforts to secure a grant from Travel Oregon. The group was awarded the grant, which provided funds for a range of outreach materials including informational brochures and posters.
“This was our first time in Coos County doing an outreach presentation,” Malik said. “We want to continue coming here and strengthening our partnerships.”
Along with the effects to wildlife and its habitat, Malik pointed out to commissioners the potential impact the loss of the dunes could have on tourism to the area. In Coos County, about $270 million was spent by visitors to the area in 2017. The dunes he pointed out were a big attraction to tourists engaging in recreational activities and contributing to the local economy.
On June 6, the ODRC will present a lecture on the dunes and its disappearing landscape at the Coos History Museum in its Sprague Gallery in Coos Bay. Sometime in the spring, the group is planning on hosting a volunteer recruitment event in Coos County, but has not confirmed a date.
“If we’re unable to save the dunes then we’ll lose acres of natural habitat, wildlife and economic benefits,” Malik said. “I hope that we could start some volunteer activities down here as a way to help the cause and preserve our dunes.”