Fishing vessel sinks further, continues to leak fuel

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Windy Bay, the fishing vessel that sank in Prince William Sound and spilled almost 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel, is continuing to leak, the Coast Guard says.

The 180-foot vessel has shifted position and fallen deep into a canyon on the sea floor at the mouth of Unakwik Inlet.

The change in the vessel's position appears to be causing the vessel to begin leaking again, said Petty Officer Angel Deimler. She described the leaks as a steady stream of ''marble-sized drops'' of diesel. Since Saturday, more than 100 gallons of diesel has leaked, Deimler said.

The number of dead and fuel-soaked birds from the spill is also rising. State and Coast Guard officials report that seven dead birds have been found. Two fuel-covered birds also were taken for rehabilitation.

At least five boats remain at the spill scene, Deimler said. Other spill cleanup workers are washing beaches by running cold water through rocks and gravel, she said. Others are walking beaches in the area, searching for oiled wildlife and studying contamination on the shoreline.

While the Coast Guard has said the clean up has gone well, many people in the village of Eyak are disappointed by the way it has been handled, said Robert Henrichs, president of the Native village of Eyak. He said neither the state nor the Coast Guard informed villagers about the status of the cleanup.

''We'll be watching until it's cleaned up,'' Henrichs said.

The Windy Bay was being used to haul salmon in Prince William Sound and was headed south on August 4 when it struck a charted ledge east of Olsen Island.

About three hours after the Windy Bay ran aground, the vessel sank. The Coast Guard said the wreck was in about 700 feet of water.

Officials estimate they recovered almost 13,000 gallons of diesel. About 60 percent of the spilled fuel, or about 20,000 gallons, officials estimate, dissipated into the air. Midweek, the spill cleanup team began to demobilize.

On Friday boats still at the scene noticed oil surfacing faster than before, Deimler said. A new scan of the bottom showed the vessel sitting in 1,300 feet of water.

Why the vessel sank farther is unclear, Deimler said.

She said cleanup crews will remain on scene until the spill is over and any spilled oil has been recovered or dissipated.

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