Thursday, May 31, 2012

Divers complete milestone in preparing for Deep Sea lift, expected June 3

by Larry Altose, communications manager, Northwest Regional Office

Divers reached a significant milestone today in preparing to raise the sunken fishing vessel Deep Sea from the bottom of Penn Cove, near Coupeville on Whidbey Island. They were able to insert the lifting chain under the stern section of the boat and secure it in place.

A multi-agency unified command is coordinating the recovery effort. The command comprises the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington departments of Ecology (Ecology) and Natural Resources (DNR), Island County Department of Emergency Management, Global Diving & Salvage Inc. (Global) and NRC-Environmental Services (NRC-ES).

With the stern lifting chain in place, divers for Global will now move to the bow of the vessel and work to remove the starboard (right side) anchor and chain. Once these are removed, crews will rig another lifting chain in the bow and hoist the bow of the vessel toward the surface to create space for divers to run "messenger line" under the hull at the center of ship. This will enable the placing of a heavy lifting chain.

NRC-ES crews continued to tend oil-spill containment boom and to deploy oil-spill cleanup materials in response to sheen - a thin oil coating - visible in surrounding waters. Most of the sheen is too thin to remove, and dissipates by evaporation and natural breakdown. The sheen comes from small amounts of oil that escape from the Deep Sea.

State agencies had incurred costs estimated at $800,000 as of May 31on the Deep Sea response. Ecology projects the state will spend approximately $1,571,000 to raise and remove the vessel. The state will seek reimbursement from the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC). DNR will separately pay a projected $350,000 to break apart the vessel at a shipyard, a cost not eligible for NPFC funding.

While more than 5,000 gallons of oil products have been removed or recovered since the Deep Sea sank May 13 after a fire, an unknown quantity remains trapped on the vessel. Some of this oil floats out through small openings. Divers have plugged some of these, but accumulations of oil tend to reach new outlets. Removal of the Deep Sea will eliminate this problem and the risk of further oil releases.

The Washington State Department of Health closed all shellfish harvesting in Penn Cove on May 15. The closure will remain in effect until testing confirms shellfish from the area are safe to eat.

The Coast Guard has established a marine safety zone on waters within 200 yards of the Deep Sea. Vessels seeking to enter that zone must request permission from the Coast Guard's Joint Harbor Operation Center at 206-217-6001 or from on-scene patrol craft on VHF radio channel 13.

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