Crude oil trains pose threat to Feather River Canyon

Nov 20, 2014 2:40 PM by News Staff

The volume of crude oil shipped by rail through California has dramatically increased over the last few years and Feather River Canyon has become one of the most threatened areas in the state.

Between Oroville and Quincy, along miles of rushing water, you'll find Feather River Canyon. Residents say there have always been trains traveling through, but lately there've been more than usual. In the last two years the amount of crude oil from Bakken Oil Fields in Canada, Montana and North Dakota moving through California, and Feather River has skyrocketed.

California used to receive all its oil from ship and pipeline, but trains are becoming the preferred method of transport, and experts predict oil traveling to the Bay Area by train will only increase in the next few years.

In 2012 one million barrels of crude oil traveled through California, in 2013 more than 6 million barrels traveled through the state.

Plumas County Office of Emergency Services Director Jerry Sipes says the increase of volatile oil traveling through Feather River Canyon raises a lot of red flags. "With the number of trains, we're concerned with the likelihood of a derailment of this hazardous material."

Officials say one of the primary risks is on the marine environment. A spill into the Feather River Canyon could be devastating to not just the canyon, but surrounding communities. Feather River is one of the main arteries feeding Lake Oroville, one of the largest water storage facilities in the state. A spill could threaten the water source.

The other major threat posed by a derailment is fire. Local and state organizations are coming up with contingency plans, but limited staffing across the North State means multiple counties emergency service teams must work together to mitigate the threat.

"We are better prepared than we were yesterday and we're going to continue to be prepared tomorrow" Sipes said.


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