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By NICK BOWMAN
Daily News Staff Writer
A hull breach of approximately 2 inches in the Samson Tug and Barge tugboat Mariner has been plugged, and both tug and barge spent Thursday tied up in Ward Cove after running aground on Rosa Reef off of Gravina Island on Wednesday.
The cause of the incident remains unknown, according to Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios with the U.S. Coast Guard in Juneau, but is being investigated.
A 200-yard-wide oil sheen was reported in the area of the grounding — between the Rosa Reef marker and Rock Point on the shore of Gravina Island across from Totem Bight — stretching to the north end of Pennock Island, and an estimated 1,100 of diesel spilled from the Mariner’s second port fuel tank, according to a Thursday announcement from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and 600 to 700 gallons made it into the environment.
There was no damage to the barge, named the Saint Elias, according to the Coast Guard.
The announcement states that “if the wind picks up as forecasted this afternoon, we expect the sheen to break up relatively rapidly, with scattered sheens potentially still visible under the low wind conditions forecast for tomorrow.” There are no reports of affected fish or wildlife near the Rosa Reef grounding.
“As of now, nothing egregious has been reported,” said DEC Southeast Supervisor David Pikul. “... Once the leak was stopped and the vessel was contained, it really dispersed over a large area, which allows it to thin out quite a bit.”
The port tank contained about 5,000 gallons of fuel. The tug had an estimated total of 30,000 gallons of fuel on board and the barge had 40,000 gallons of fuel, according to DEC.
Coast Guard Station Ketchikan, the Ketchikan-based Marine Safety Detachment and Air Station Sitka were involved in the work on Thursday. The hull breach was patched by Alaska Commercial Divers, according to the DEC announcement.
The two vessels were surrounded by boom “as a precaution” in Ward Cove, Rios said, and were not actively leaking fuel on Thursday.
The Mariner and its tug were headed up into the Gulf of Alaska from Seattle when the tug ran aground just north of the Ketchikan city limits at 6:58 p.m. on Wednesday. No injuries were reported in the grounding.
Shawn Richardson, Samson’s Southeast regional manager, was not available for questions on Thursday.
Samson’s barge was recovered and towed to Ward Cove before midnight on Wednesday, and the Mariner was refloated with the tide and secured with the Saint Elias early Thursday morning.
Wednesday’s incident was the third tug and barge grounding along the northwest coast of the continent since October.
In mid-October, a fuel barge ran aground near Bella Bella, British Columbia, prompting a sizable response from environmental protection agencies, the Canadian Coast Guard and nearby tribes.
The fuel barge itself was quickly recovered, but its tug, the Nathan E. Stewart owned by the Kirby Corp., sank at Edge Reef in Seaforth Channel.
In early November, a sand barge owned by Channel Construction flipped and sank north of Edge Reef, but its tug remained afloat.
In instances, the tugs and barges were bound for Alaska from Washington state, and they prompted Canadian tribes and government officials to call for tighter regulations on shipping through inside waters along the coast of British Columbia.