- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) - A response plan is in place in the event of an oil spill on Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River.

The Lake Pend Oreille Geographic Response Plan identifies at-risk resources such as water intakes and wetlands and provides a series of countermeasures to protect them. The 400-plus page plan focuses exclusively on petroleum spills because of the increase in volume of oil tankers hauling crude oil pulled from the Bakken formation in the Great Plains’ Williston Basin. State officials say up to 3 million gallons of the crude course along Bonner County waterways per week.

A spill would activate the state’s communications backbone and its specific classification would immediately draw in the appropriate agencies whether it is a petroleum release, a radiological misadventure or even the detonation of a weapon of mass destruction, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported Tuesday (https://bit.ly/2wfAv50 ).

“This gives us what we call a ‘common operating picture’ immediately and starts a huge response,” said Jeff Rylee, a hazardous material/special teams operations official with Idaho Office of Emergency Management.

The plan was developed through a collection of state grant funding and contributions from railway companies such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The plan highlights a significant vulnerability with regard to evacuations, noting recent experiences with train accident indicates that the average time between derailment and the onset of fire is less than 20 minutes. On some occasions, the fire started immediately. A further complicating consideration is the predominance of high-occupancy dwellings near the railroad tracks.

An oil train accident in Sandpoint, for instance, would likely require the evacuation of half the city’s area, according to the plan.

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