Understanding and accounting for ecosystem services reveals the true economic benefits of healthy ecosystems and the true economic damages that pollution events such as oil spills generate for communities like the San Juan County.
— Report, San Juan County Oil Spill Risk & Consequences Assessment

If an oil spill were to occur near San Juan County, the county would face significant economic, environmental, and social consequences.

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The valuable natural assets of the San Juan Islands are irreplaceable. By making the economic case for protecting these assets and lowering the risk of marine oil spills in surrounding waters, we can ensure that the many benefits of these marine and shoreline resources can be enjoyed by future generations.  This is the socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable thing to do.

Study Area: San Juan County, Washington
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  • The marine and shoreline environments within San Juan County provide immeasurable cultural value to island residents, visitors, and indigenous communities throughout the region. 

  • The largest sectors of San Juan County’s economy, including tourism, construction, real estate, and commercial fishing, are all dependent on healthy shoreline and marine ecosystems.

This report aims to:

  • Identify the wide range of social, economic, and environmental impacts of a hypothetical oil spill in San Juan County;

  • Estimate the damages incurred by the county under multiple spill scenarios;

  • Build the case for investment in oil spill risk mitigation measures for Haro Strait/Boundary Pass, such as an Emergency Response Towing Vessel (ERTV).

Research on the impacts of past oil spills demonstrates the devastating impacts that oil spills can generate for marine-dependent communities such as San Juan County. This report modeled damages associated with two scenarios, based on conservative assumptions about the geographic extent of areas impacted by oil. A springtime oil spill at Turn Point (Haro Strait/Boundary Pass) would generate significant economic costs to the county, totaling $84 million to $510 million.

However, this is an underestimate of the true cost of a spill. Several known impacts are omitted from this estimate, including the ripple effects of reduced tourist spending and commercial fishing sales, marine transportation and infrastructure impacts, public health impacts, social services disruption, terrestrial ecosystem impacts, and the loss of tribal treaty rights, the value of which is beyond economic measure.

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Estimated Shoreline and Sea Surface Oil Presence for Scenarios A & B

Map: Scenario A
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Map: Scenario B  Click to Enlarge

Map: Scenario B
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In the media


Page, R., Van Deren, M., Soares, J., Kerr, N. 2019. San Juan County Oil Spill Risk Consequences Assessment. Earth Economics, Tacoma, WA.

Prepared For: San Juan County Environmental Resources Division and San Juan County Marine Resources Committee