A tanker piercing its fuel tank on a pier and leaking hundred of gallons of diesel into the Columbia River Friday is a reminder of how quickly maritime accidents happen and why its so important to have well-polished response plans.

Investigators have yet to determine what went wrong, but it’s possible to say some things went right: Coast Guard Incident Management Division investigators were dispatched, a containment boom was deployed, and the Panamanian-flagged vessel’s agent hired Clean Rivers Cooperative from Portland to cleanup the spill.

These actions plus an array of others are outlined in the Lower Columbia River Geographic Response Plan, which was updated earlier this year by the Coast Guard and state environmental agencies. Preparation is premised on the well-understood fact that limiting damage necessitates having detailed procedures already worked out, plus practice drills and mechanisms for holding companies accountable.

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