By Naomi Klouda
An environmental review of the jackup rig Endeavour found that it contains no live organisms or invasive species that could pose a threat to Kachemak Bay.
URS Alaska senior biologist Dave Erikson, the consultant hired by Buccaneer Alaska on Sept. 8, concluded his report by saying: “The extended period of time the rig was in dry dock, approximately six months, appears to have been long enough to kill whatever invertebrates and algae had become attached during or before the time it was cold-stacked.”
The 15-page environmental review was released to the Homer Tribune, Friday.
The Endeavour, formerly called the Adriatic XI, was left moored in 40-50 feet of water in Malaysia in 2009, and remained there until it was purchased in a joint agreement between Buccaneer and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 2011 for $65 million. It was dry-docked six months while undergoing repairs and upgrades in Singapore.
“In addition, after spending months in dry dock, the rig underwent its 30 day journey to Alaska on the deck of the heavy lift vessel (out of waters) allowing very little opportunity for new biota to become attached. With the rig and its legs out of the water for this extended period of time, survival of any attached marine biota on structures would be highly unlikely, especially soft-bodied organisms.”
All this time out of water was a dominant factor in killing marine species, Erikson found.
“From the size of the shells, the attached oyster shells appeared to be from mature specimens at least a couple of years old. The number of species of oysters or barnacles present on the rig and their age was not determined… Some of the shells may have been from an earlier period in the rig’s 30-year history of operation,” the report states.
The survey included numerous photos of what was found in Erikson’s examination of the jackup rig. He found several species of dead oysters on the bow leg of the jacking guide slot, under gray paint. Dead barnacle shells were on the starboard leg, most of which had been painted over. Shell debris was on the catwalk out to a manhole on top of the spud can. This was likely collected from cleaning the legs of encrusting marine biota prior to painting the legs, Erikson found. He also found encrusted marine organisms, a grayish film, on a bow leg. And he found encrusted juvenile muscles and calcareous worm tubes on a structural support member.
Erikson’s survey method focused on the three legs of the rig, particularly the lower portions just about at the waterline. Photographs and sample shells were taken from these. The second day focused on the spud cans located on the bottoms of the legs. These areas had not been recently scraped and painted like the rest of the legs and marine growth was evident. Collecting samples required the help of a trained climber, who scaled the main deck by ladder wearing a climbing harness. Close up photos of a film of encrusted marine life were taken and a sample from two areas was collected for microscopic examination.
The subject of non-indigenous species making way into Kachemak Bay is one that concerns officials and members of the environmental community. Invasives are currently uncommon in the bay, Erikson wrote, but changes in environmental conditions such as water temperature may make this area more susceptible to marine species from elsewhere. “Most of the research effort has focused on ballast water as a mechanism for transport, but hulls of ships and barges are also an important mode of transport that can introduce species to an area,” the report states.
Erikson recommends that Buccaneer:
•Remove all loose shell debris from all areas near the legs
•The spud cans, supporting structures and catwalks should be scraped and painted at the same time as other parts of the legs to minimize the risk of introducing non-indigenous species
•The four-inch gap near the jacking guides should be cleaned of shells and then monitored for any build up after the drilling season
•The leg structures should be cleaned of attached marine biota after drilling season this year to minimize potential for transport of non-indigenous species.
Continued presence in the bay
Local environmental officials are questioning two issues related to the jack up rig Endeavour’s continued presence at the Homer Deep Water Dock: is it legal to be there and did a possible violation occur when the legs were put down?
During a 28-hour period of a 50 knot-wind storm, between noon Sept. 15 to 4 p.m. Sept. 16, massive efforts were under way by the tug captains and the harbormaster, who were becoming seriously concerned about safety, said Buccaneer spokesperson Jay Morakis.
“Buccaneer consulted with the harbormaster and each governing bodies and decided it was best to remain at the dock during this period,” Morakis said Friday.
“Given the worsening weather and very real threat to the lives of those present and the environment itself, at 4 p.m. Sunday, in conjunction with the harbormaster, the off-shore installation manager, captains of the tugs, Pacific Explorer and Elizabeth III, Nobel-Denton Rig mover and Nobel Denton marine surveyor, emergency conditions were declared and a decision was made to lower the legs of the Endeavour to stabilize the rig thus ensuring no damage was done,” he said. When the tide went out, the legs then soft-pinned into the mud.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Division of Natural Resources were notified immediately when this action was taken, Morakis said.
winds began to gust at 50 knots with potential to blow to 70 knots.
The jack up rig remains at the harbor undergoing plumbing hook ups, electrical wiring and other work to prepare it for occupancy. Its overall spill response plan is approved, and permits are obtained for mammal protections and blow out equipment. But routine permitting now to certify occupancy should be obtained shortly.
This week, Cook Inlet Advocacy Director Bob Shavelson wrote a letter to the top official at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Cora Campbell, asking her to enforce the rules on Kachemak Bay’s Critical Habitat Area. It is the CHA is spelled out in the Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Area Management plan: “to avoid damage to fish and wildlife habitats, disturbance to fish and wildlife populations and displacement of public use of Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area, drilling rig storage will not be allowed in Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area,” Shavelson quoted in his letter. (See page 6 for the letter).
Cook Inletkeeper is hoping Cora Campbell accepts an invitation to Homer to talk with residents about the matter, now that two jack up rigs will be operating in Cook Inlet.
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