Coast Guard and partner agencies continue stabilization, planning for capsized vessel near Bethel Island

Coast Guard members, California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response officers and Global Diving and Salvage, Inc. personnel evaluate the Spirit of Sacramento's condition and conduct a shoreline assessment Sept. 8, 2016, near Bethel Island, Calif. The 87-foot vessel was reported to be taking on water Sept. 4, 2016, and sank; the teams are working together to develop environmental protection plans for the vessel, which include conducting surveys of the surrounding water and shoreline. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Stanton.

Coast Guard members, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response officers and Global Diving and Salvage, Inc. personnel evaluate the Spirit of Sacramento’s condition and conduct a shoreline assessment Sept. 8, 2016, near Bethel Island, Calif. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam Stanton.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and other partner agencies continued planning and preparations Thursday for stabilizing and the eventual removal of fuel from the capsized Spirit of Sacramento near Bethel Island.

A survey of the area was conducted to identify environmentally sensitive areas and locate staging areas that will be needed for removal operations and for any pollution response efforts in the event oil is released from the vessel during removal operations.

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for the area issued an order Thursday to the owner of the vessel, Samuel Rowles, requiring him to develop a pollution removal plan by noon Friday. If that plan is approved, the owner will be permitted to conduct the pollution removal operation.

If Rowles does not have an approved plan, the Coast Guard and partner agencies will proceed with a two-phase plan already developed in coordination with Global Diving and Salvage, Inc., to first prepare the vessel for a safe recovery to the surface, then to conduct pollution removal operations. The Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a pollution response fund composed primarily of a per-barrel tax on the oil industry, will provide funding for the immediate response, and future efforts will be made to recoup costs of the response from the owner.

Thursday’s environmental assessment was conducted by the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to develop environmental protection plans for the fuel removal phase of the response.  Teams conducted surveys of the surrounding water and shoreline to identify any sensitive sites in the vicinity of the Spirit of Sacramento that would require protection from a pollution threat.

Thes survey teams observed no pollution concerns, but environmental protection strategies have been developed for any sensitive sites and will be implemented in the event of a spill during the fuel removal phase. The oil containment boom remains around the vessel.

The Coast Guard Pacific Strike Team will also be integrated into planning operations Friday. The Strike Team is a resource available to assist the on-scene coordinator during actual or potential pollution incidents, and will provide safety expertise throughout the response to the Spirit of Sacramento.

The Coast Guard remains in close coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and other state and local partners to coordinate the response.

Throughout the first phase of this operation, we appreciate the continued cooperation and assistance of local boaters and residents, as planning and oversight operations are ongoing.

The Coast Guard issued a boating public notice, which requires that mariners remain at least 75 feet away from the vessel. For more information on the public notice, click here.

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