Containment boom set around grounded vessel

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Responders have placed containment boom around a sheen leaking from a grounded fishing vessel in Alaska's Prince William Sound, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The Seattle-based Cape Cross does not appear to be spilling fuel in Main Bay, according to Petty Officer David Mosley.

He said the sheen - estimated at 150 yards by 15 yards - is likely bilge water escaping from a hole punched into the engine room when the 100-foot tender went hard aground Monday. State environmental regulators said an unsecured 55-gallon gasoline drum also fell into the bay, but hardly any fuel spilled. The drum was retrieved.

The seven crew members were not hurt and remained at the scene Tuesday aboard another fishing vessel.

State fish and game managers closed the bay to commercial salmon fishing as a precaution Tuesday, while a land-based salmon hatchery more than a mile away remained in operation.

Responders were planning to place containment boom near the hatchery before beginning removal of an estimated 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board the Cape Cross, according to Mosley.

"It's an extra layer of security, an extra layer of isolation for the hatchery," he said.

The Cape Cross was among four fishing vessels that went aground within three hours Monday. There were no reported injuries or pollution in any of the other incidents, which occurred in Southeast Alaska waters.

One of the boats sank. A crabbing vessel sustained a three-inch hole, but crew members refloated it with the tide and pumped water until reaching Ketchikan safely. The third vessel was undamaged and its crew returned to fishing.

The Cape Cross crew was unable to plug the hole caused by the grounding and the vessel was lying on its side in the bay, about 70 miles southwest of Valdez.

A Coast Guard cutter, a salvage company and other responders also were on site Tuesday.

The cutter crew delivered two dewatering pumps Monday night. A Coast Guard helicopter had delivered two pumps earlier in the day.

But the Cape Cross crew was unable to refloat the vessel in heavy rains and rising tides, and the Coast Guard called off the effort late Monday.

Mosley said the plan now was to salvage the vessel after the fuel is removed.

Meanwhile, the Department of Fish and Game announced an immediate closure of commercial fishing in the bay. Fisheries biologist Glenn Hollowell said the fishery was winding down, with no more than two dozen boats. At the peak of the fishery a few weeks ago, about 300 boats were in the bay.

"We're just closing it down until know what going on," Hollowell said.

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the grounding.

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