• Cleanup crews on hand Friday to mitigate pollution in Jakolof
By Naomi Klouda
Two fishing vessels that sank in Jakolof Bay on Christmas day continue to spread an oily sheen in sensitive oyster farming waters while a plan for removing the vessels still isn’t formulated.
Coast Guard officials say the situation calls for safety in hazardous conditions: it will take divers to install floatation equipment beneath the vessel while cranes lift the 53-foot FV Leading Lady off the bottom. It is taking more time to put together a plan on the part of the clean-up contractors due to safety concerns. Ultimately, the Coast Guard must approve the plan and equipment used. Weather also needs to cooperate.
“When you have divers and cranes, lifting vessels isn’t that big of a deal, but a vessel on top of a vessel is a whole different aspect,” said Petty Officer Jonathon Alexander said today, Wednesday.
Global Salvage and Diving is the cleanup contractor under the supervision of the Coast Guard, with funding paid for by the National Pollution Fund.
The F/V Leading Lady and the F/V Kupreanof sank sometime during the night of Christmas Eve or the following day, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in an incident report. The sunken vessels were discovered at 2:47 p.m. on Dec. 25 and were immediately reported to the Coast Guard. The ADEC was notified as well.
The cause of the sinking is believed to be from the 48 inches of snow falling that day, another causality of the immense storm that swept through the region. The vessels were apparently pushed down and on top of one another when crews inspected the situation on Dec. 27. The Leading Lady is a 53-foot commercial fishing vessel.
The vessel’s owner, Timothy Barclay, estimated for ADEC that about 50 gallons of diesel fuel and 35 gallons of hydraulic fluids, along with lube oils were aboard the boat. The F/V Kupreanof had no engine or fuel on board at the time of the sinking.
Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Sullivan said at the time that the first weather window for traveling to Jakolof was Dec. 28. At that point, a
unified command for clean-up had been formed with ADEC, placing the Coast Guard in charge of oversight. Agencies and stakeholders were all notified as well.
“We’ve contracted out services for a cleanup. There will be an additional assessment by divers on Saturday,” Sullivan said. “If conditions are good, the company will remove all the petroleum products to mitigate any future threat.”
Diesel and gas tend to dissipate quickly, evaporating into the air, Sullivan said. “Crude oil is a different story. For refined products, it’s difficult to recover.”
Residents in Jakolof Bay are watching as the sheens of fuel spread across the bay, and anxiously awaited the cleanup. As of Wednesday morning, today, residents were reporting a 100-by-100 foot slick clearly visible on the water.
In an appeal to officials, Margo Reveil first described diesel spreading all the way in the back of the bay on an outgoing tide, and documented it with photos the same week as the vessels sank.
“The sheen extended at least a nautical mile out past the red buoy off MacDonald spit. The last three images attached are back by the Northern Pride Farm,” she wrote. “They also fished out one, 5-gallon sealed bucket of oil floating in the bay, so debris is working its way out with the tides. I hope the seals hold as well on any other buckets. It is possible that diesel is being released in bursts and not a steady flow, but I would hope spill response teams are familiar with such potential fuel flow patterns from sunken vessels.”
Reveil’s husband and brother were the ones who called in to report the vessels had sunk. The Reveils operate an oyster farm in the bay and were immediately concerned about the impact of the spill.
“This shouldn’t harm the larger oysters, but it might be bad for the new spat, which are more vulnerable,” she said. “It’s encouraging to hear they are going out there getting chemicals off the boats.”
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