• Port Graham residents say they were not consulted, and they fear numerous safety issues
by Naomi Klouda
Port Graham now has both jack-up rigs, the Endeavour and the Spartan 151, in its bay, a sight that surprised locals who had little or no warning that discussions were being held about winter moorage there. Last year, the Spartan wintered over at Port Graham while the Endeavour was docked at the Homer Port.
Buccaneer Alaska, owner of the Endeavour, and Furie Operating Alaska, the owner of the Spartan, moved the rigs to Port Graham in the past two weeks. Christina Anderson, Buccaneer’s Stakeholder relations manager, has said it wasn’t yet decided where the Endeavour would spend the winter. Today, Buccaneer Alaska officials were due to be in Alaska from their Texas headquarters. Spokesman Richard Loomis said an announcement would be forthcoming.
Oil companies vacate the inlet in late October-November, depending on ice conditions. Homer city officials had been in discussions with Buccaneer about the rig being wintered again at the Homer dock where it would arrive around Nov. 1.
Cook Inletkeeper advocate Bob Shavelson expressed concern about the rigs crowded into Port Graham because he has been in touch with villagers who witnessed a near fall-over of the top heavy Spartan when it came in during a storm.
The weather is expected to be stormy this week with high wind warnings in Cook Inlet and 11-foot seas forecast for Tuesday-Wednesday.
“In that protected bay they are not necessarily threatened, but there is a big storm coming. How will the rigs handle that?” Shavelson said.
Port Graham residents Tommy Evans and Richard Moonin shared photos of the Endeavour’s shaky entrance with Cook Inletkeeper. Like the Spartan, it looked precarious to observers from the shore, Evans said.
“We were under the impression it was to go to Homer,” Evans said. “Port Graham Corp., offered to get Furie and Buccaneer a better rate than what they could get in Homer, that’s what we’ve been told.”
The situation of two giant rigs in the bay has villagers nervous. At population 177, Port Graham is one of the smallest villages in the area. The Endeavour is several hundred yards from the airstrip. “We’re worried it will interfere with airplanes taking off,” he said.
The day that the Endeavour was tugged to the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula the weather was storming.
“It was a really bad storm. We had 20 foot seas – and I was wondering what is going on. They came in and circled in Nanwalek, swaying back and forth. One of the crew members from Endeavour said it almost tipped over,” Evans said.
Locals remember the spill of the Exxon Valdez, and suffered environmental injuries that are still studied today.
“Exxon left a bad taste in their mouth. Oil companies don’t listen to the village. It’s a horrible scenario. Here we are involved in eliminating the discharges of oil companies in Cook Inlet, and they’re bringing the oil companies into our back yard,” Evans said, referring to the tribe’s partnership with Cook Inletkeeper advocating that state make more rigid requirements for dumping waste in the Inlet.
“Even the tribal council’s hands were tied. They had no voice in the decision making. I thought that was wrong. I’m hoping someone comes to look at these conditions. It is monkeying with people’s lives,” he added.
A number of people witnessed the rigs out in the inlet when it was near Nanwalek. “We were standing on the point when we watched it come in. It seemed totally crazy, who the heck would travel carrying that – the potential to hurt both of our villages. Everyone was saying someone should have learned from that Shell situation off Kodiak,” Evan said. That involved a winter storm tipping over the Kuluk, another jack-up rig that is used on the Beaufort Sea.
Even with the promise of a few jobs, having the rigs there all winter is not a pleasant prospect, villagers say. But the Port Graham Corp., stands to make an undisclosed sum that helps make life easier for shareholders.
Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins said the plan to get work done on the rig in a winter over at the Homer dock wasn’t signed or finalized.
“It was fairly tentative. We worked through the process to discuss that possibility – as far as the city was concerned we were open to it,” Hawkins said. His understanding is that Buccaneer moved its rig to Port Graham to complete an inspection on the rig. “Then they were talking about going back out and doing more work before their lay-up,” he said.
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