Cascadia Living

Exploring the nexus between work and play with a sense of wonder in the Pacific Northwest.

What would a catastrophic oil spill from the CEI Hub after an M9.0 earthquake look like on the lower Willamette and Columbia Rivers?

Leave a comment

Recent reports document that Oregon’s Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub could release between 94 million and 193 million gallons of petroleum materials, with between 40 million to 82 million gallons going into the Willamette River.

I interviewed Gary Shigenaka, retired Marine Biologist with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, about his experience working on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, then the largest in US history at 10.8 million gallons.

We met at Cathedral Park in Portland on March 11, 2023, the 12th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, to talk about his professional observations on what might be expected here from the CEI Hub for the scale and scope of the Spill, Response, and Recovery.

Above is Gary Shigenaka’s interview with three segments:
1 – The Oil Spill (0:00 to 05:20)
a. Overview of 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill and impacts
b. Much of the CEI Hub spill volume will be gasoline and diesel
c. Impacts to aquatic life and water toxicity

2 – The Oil Spill Response (05:21 to 07:43)
a. After the big one, emergency officials will likely prioritize human safety over the environment
b. Post-earthquake capacity to respond to the oil spill may take weeks to months

3 – The Oil Spill Recovery (07:44 to 10:30)
a. Aggressive treatments to remove/recover oil may have negative impacts on habitat
b. Nature demonstrated resilience over the long-term in Prince Williams Sound
c. Initial recovery may begin within a few years, but long-term recovery may take decades
d. Some species or communities may not recover

Gary was the author of NOAA’s 25-year anniversary report on the Exxon Valdez spill:

NOAA Infographic on 25-year Exxon Valdez timeline of habitat recovery:

Additional reference:

My 3/13/2023 radio interview on KBOO’s Locus Focus with Barbara Bernstein:

Author: Jay Wilson

I'm a local emergency manager in the Portland metro area and primarily work in the aspects of disaster resilience, hazard mitigation, and recovery planning. I am especially interested in how hazards are integrated into a sense of place and how we can better design our communities to adapt to and work with the environment. Can we leverage our sense of community identity and belonging now, before a disaster, or do we have to learn these lessons the hard way?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s