Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Unified Command Juggles Drill Rig Assessment, Mitigation Strategies for Crab Fishery

As an assessment continues on a drill rig refloated after being grounded off of Kodiak Island and towed to safe haven, officials in charge have developed mitigation strategies to deal with potential impacts to a tanner crab fishery set to open today.

Officials with the Unified Command say they have developed mitigation strategies collaboratively with the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative to reduce impacts to the fishery during the crab season, which normally lasts several days. The Unified Command said a marine coordinator will be onsite to coordinate the movement of response vessels, and updates will be provided every four hours to crab fishermen.

In addition a claims process has been established for any crab harvester losses that occur as a result of the drill rig Kulluk’s presence in Kodiak Island’s Kiliuda Bay during this year’s tanner crab fishing season.

To date there have been no reports of leakage of any fuel from the drill rig owned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which grounded during stormy winter weather off a remote island near Kodiak Island on New Year’s Eve. The rig, which was employed for offshore drilling in the Arctic this past fall, was being towed from Dutch Harbor to Seattle for maintenance.

On Jan. 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued two separate notices of violation to Shell for Clean Air Act permits for the Kulluk drill rig and Discoverer drillship and fleet for oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

That announcement was based on EPA’s inspections of the Discoverer and the Kulluk, from which the EPA determined that Shell had multiple permit violations for each during the 2012 drilling season. Shell was also notified by the EPA that the agency had terminated the September 2012 compliance order for the Discoverer’s permit. This action does not preclude Shell from applying for future permits.

Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak has temporarily deployed two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews to St. Paul Island to safeguard the crab fleet and other fishing vessels engaged in winter fisheries in Southwestern Alaska. There was some concern after the Kulluk grounded that the demand on Coast Guard resources might adversely affect its ability to come to the aid of commercial harvesters engaged in winter crab and groundfish fisheries.

The Kodiak-based Coast Guard Cutter Munro, a high endurance cutter, will also be in the region outfitted with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak aboard.

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