New thread re Oregon oil slick - "Tankers will not fall out of the sky" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Thought we ought to continue the discussion of the "Coos Bay Catastrophe" in a new thread. Here's the original (read the last few postings):

"Urban Warrior"

Have to agree with other posters that this disaster is likely to be repeated in many places if nav systems on oil tankers lose their tiny minds around New Year's Evil.

-- Mac (, February 11, 1999


Thanks, Mac. Are you getting coverage? It's getting worse & worse. They're saying nobody can figure out why it ran aground. Also, that it should have been handled differently at the beginning. Hindsight of a week. The thing is, it's winter, one storm after another, and this is a similar time-frame to next year. So far whenever the word 'computer' comes out, the shots shift rapidly. Anybody else watching this?

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-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

Mac, your thread title is funny, because they're loading 8 barrels of gel napalm on board, plus gasoline and dynamite, so the fuel will burn, sending a toxic plume around the world, plus the explosions will send parts of the tanker raining from the sky.

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-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

Why haven't the greenpeace tree-huggers gone bullsh** about y2k yet? Potentially, this is the mother of all environmental disasters.

-- rick blaine (, February 11, 1999.

Rick - The common enemy right now is complacency about Y2K in all its forms. Perjorative terms like "tree-huggers" are simply flame-bait and not conducive to open dialogue. I myself have some serious disagreements with the "Green Movement"; I have tabled my part in that discussion until we all get past this far more urgent challenge.

-- Mac (, February 11, 1999.

That may be, but remove the word you find offensive from his post and answer his question -- instead of spending time taking him to task.

If Y2K's so important that you will ignore your differences with environmentalists it's important enough for you not to spend time verbally chastizing someone else for using a term such as 'tree-hugger.'

-- stop (, February 11, 1999.

No offense intended. "Tree-hugger" is quicker to type than "environmental activist." So anyway, I haven't heard anything from them on y2k, have you?

-- rick blaine (, February 11, 1999.

I suspect that the environmentalists have the same problem with Y2K as everyone else: no clear sense that it's really going to happen and a natural tendency to dismiss it. Heck, this here forum is packed to the gunwales with True Believers and some of us even have our doubts at times. Imagine how unlikely it would be for some leading light among the Greens to stand up and start yelling about Y2K.

By way of example, here's a thread re Y2K from an environmental discussion forum at

Environmentalists and Y2K

Note how the original post quotes pretty much the entire article on "Environmentalists and Y2K" by Jim Lord of Westergaard, and how the thread quickly devolves into comments about "self-promotion" and "Crazy Gary North" and "Christian apocolyptics" and so forth.

Then the herd goes back to grazing...

-- Mac (, February 11, 1999.

Navy tries napalm in bid to burn ship Grenades fail to torch freighter leaking oil off Oregon coast

By Larry Dailey MSNBC COOS BAY, Ore., Feb. 11  After grenades failed to ignite the oil inside a freighter grounded off Oregon, officials hoped to try heavier weapons  including napalm  on Thursday. Navy demolition experts boarded the ship with explosive charges that they hope will crack open the ships fuel tanks and will then put eight barrels of highly flammable napalm gel over the oil, leave the ship and ignite it by remote control.

AUTHORITIES HOPE that by burning the 639-foot New Carissa they will prevent a devastating spill from the ships 400,000 gallons of oil. Already, there is oil spilling out of a long crack on the side of the tanker, and preparations were under way as far away as British Columbia for a major oil spill.

The Navy team was given a slight break Thursday because a coming storm that threatened to break up the ship had weakened considerably.

There was no word on when the ship will be ignited but it was expected later Thursday. INFRARED SENSORS

Coast Guard spokesman Frank Dunn told MSNBC that a helicopter equipped with infrared sensors was monitoring the ship and that the beach would remain closed to everyone  including environmental workers  until it was burning safely.

Coast Guard officials likened setting the ship ablaze to lighting a barbecue grill, saying it could take several tries to get the heavy low-grade oil to burn.

Seven days of pounding waves have cracked the hull and ruptured three fuel tanks containing 140,000 gallons of oil, streaking beaches for six miles. If two other tanks break open, the total spilled could be 400,000 gallons.

After a brief flash and a plume of oily black smoke, a smoldering glow in two of the ships cargo holds was all there was to show for eight hours of preparation Wednesday.

The grenades detonated properly but failed to penetrate the steel- plated fuel tanks, said Navy Lt. Scot Wilson of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit on Whidbey Island, Wash.

Darkness finally forced demolition experts to call off the attempt.

Were between a rock and a hard spot, said Coast Guard Capt. Mike Hall. If we dont do something now, we would have to stand before you and tell you why we let 400,000 gallons of oil spill on our beaches. THREE-DAY BURN

A controlled burn could take as long as three days, after which the charred hull would be cut up and hauled away.

The goal is to keep the fuel within the skin of the ship, said Hall. The ship, owned by a Japanese company and registered in Panama with a crew of 23 Filipinos, ran aground Feb. 4 about 150 yards offshore. It was laying off the mouth of Coos Bay waiting for stormy weather to break so it could pick up a load of wood chips.

Pounding surf opened up cracks in its hull Monday, unleashing the brownish-black goo into the churning surf.

About 300 people have been mobilized to scrape up the gelatinous residue that has washed ashore. Oil booms were placed near the spill to protect sensitive environmental areas.

Several birds have been found coated with fuel. Crews equipped to deal with oiled wildlife were standing by in case the slick moves into the nearby habitat of the Western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Paul Jewell said the environmental risks of burning the fuel within the ship are far less than trying to pump it through 1,000 feet of hoses to containers on the beach some 200 miles southwest of Portland.

Gov. John Kitzhaber said he was saddened by the heavy smell of oil and the globs of goo on the beach.

I really dont think there is any other option, Kitzhaber said of the burning. If it stays there its clearly going to break up and were going to have a big spill. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- Gayla Dunbar (, February 11, 1999.

Rick there have been numerous articles in the Earth Island Journal, about Y2K. It is one of the best publications about the environment of any I've read. David Brower started Earth Island Institute, and the Journal is their magazine, all on tree free paper.

-- gilda jessie (, February 11, 1999.


Seven mile oil slick moves up coastline
Last night's blast burns for a while...
Beached freighter continues to leak oil...
Coastline Environmental Disaster Continues

Naval demolition experts plan to use napalm today to set afire the fuel on that stranded cargo ship off Coos Bay. Coast Guard officials say it's the same principle as placing lighter fluid on charcoal briquets in a backyard barbecue. The idea is to set the fuel on fire and keep it burning so it doesn't foul the beaches. Meanwhile, concerns over bad weather in the area are diminishing. The National Weather Service says predicted wind gusts of 75 miles an hour won't materialize. Some gusts may reach 35 miles an hour. Demolition experts failed yesterday when they tried to set the fuel on fire. They say their explosives weren't powerful enough. With exploding buckets of gasoline and incendiary grenades too weak to burst through the fuel tanks, officials were calling for heavier fire power in a renewed attempt to burn off the fuel sloshing around inside the hull a freighter mired in the Oregon surf. A first attempt to ignite the fuel tanks on the 639-foot New Carissa fizzled Wednesday night as a Navy demolition team raced against an oncoming storm that threatened to thrash the ship and cause a massive oil spill. After a brief flash and a plume of oily black smoke, all there was to show for the eight hours of preparations was a smoldering glow in two of the ship's cargo holds.

While the grenades all detonated properly, they failed to penetrate the half- to three-quarter-inch steel plated fuel tanks, said U.S. Navy Lt. Scot Wilson, of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit on Whidbey Island, Wash. ``All the charges that were set fired, but unfortunately, the hammer wasn't big enough,'' said Bill Milwee, spokesman for the ship's owner. ``We are getting a bigger hammer and we are going to...try to go back.'' Coast Guard officials had said that, like a barbecue grill, it could take several tries to get the heavy, low-grade oil to burn. Setting the ship ablaze in the breakers was a desperation move to save the beaches after authorities concluded they couldn't move the ship before the arrival of a storm expected to slam the southern Oregon Coast with 70 mph gusts. But with Wednesday night's forecasts calling for the storm to make shore fall later than expected, officials said they may have a window of opportunity to try blasting through the tanks again this morning.

The new approach: metal-piercing explosives and high-temperature incendiary grenades, specially flown in from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Already, seven days of pounding waves have cracked the hull and ruptured three fuel tanks containing 140,000 gallons of oil, streaking beaches for six miles. If the ship's other two tanks break open, the total spilled could be nearly 400,000 gallons. ``We're between a rock and a hard spot,'' said Coast Guard Capt. Mike Hall. ``If we don't do something now we would have to stand before you and tell you why we let 400,000 gallons of oil spill on our beaches.'' If the fire is started, it could take two to three days to burn off the fuel.

Afterward the charred steel hull will be cut up and hauled away by land. Authorities said this kind of burning of the heavy tarlike bunker fuel was designed as a controlled burn. They acknowledged it was a daring step, but noted that such burns have been conducted before in Alaska and other parts of the world. ``The goal is to keep the fuel within the skin of the ship,'' Hall said. ``We think the storm will help us as it feeds the oxygen.'' Hall said the storm would also help disperse the smoke more quickly, further limiting the damage to the environment. The ship, owned by a Japanese company and registered in Panama with a crew of 23 Filipinos, ran aground last Thursday morning 150 yards offshore. It was laying off the mouth of Coos Bay waiting for stormy weather to break so it could pick up a load of wood chips.

At least two harsh storms cracked the hull and a brownish-black goo began seeping out Monday, churning in the surf like a chocolate milkshake. About 300 people have been mobilized to scrape up the gelatinous residue of leaking bunker fuel that has washed ashore. Oil booms were placed near the spill to protect sensitive environmental areas. Several birds have been found coated with fuel. Crews equipped to deal with oiled wildlife were standing by in case the slick moves into the nearby habitat of the Western snowy plover, athreatened shore bird. The decision to burn the cargo ship was announced soon after a 200-foot tugboat arrived on the scene to begin the task to of budging the ship out to sea. Other options under consideration included pumping the oil out. Coast Guard Cmdr. Paul Jewell said the environmental risks of burning the fuel within the ship are far less than trying to pump it through 1,000 feet of hoses to bladders on the beach.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, who briefly considered declaring a state of emergency after the ship began leaking, toured the area Wednesday and said he was saddened by the heavy smell of oil and the globs of goo on the beach. ``I really don't think there is any other option,'' Kitzhaber said of the burning. ``If it stays there it's clearly going to break up and we're going to have a big spill.''


Plans to burn the fuel aboard a ship stranded off Coos Bay are backed by experts as a good way to protect beaches from an oily mess. But such plans are also fairly unusual. This would be the biggest planned fire of a waterborne oil spill in U-S history. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality doesn't have the knowledge or experience to weigh in on the decision to set the fire. Health officials say a sudden change in wind direction could send smoke over Coos Bay and irritate people who have lung disease. Other efforts to burn oil spills in water have had mixed results. Napalm bombs dropped on an oil tanker off the English coast in 1967 helped spread a huge oil spill across 130 miles of beaches.

The explosives experts setting fire to a grounded ship are members of a bomb squad from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Spokesman Howard Thomas says a detachment from Explosive Ordinance Mobile Unit Number Eleven flew to Coos Bay yesterday for the job. He says they are highly trained, including scuba and parachute work. Thomas says their most common job is defusing mines or other ordinance caught in fishing nets. The Coast Guard called in the Navy to torch 400-thousand gallons of fuel aboard the ``New Carissa'' to keep any more of it from leaking. Reports Thursday suggest the larger explosives requested for the job had not arrived in time yesterday. That's apparently why the fire did not take hold and continue through the night. So today's work entails installing very big ones to blow up the ship.

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber sadly toured the polluted coastline ashore from the stricken ship. The acrid smell of fuel fouled the air, the sand was dispoiled with black bunker oil, and the surreal scene of the tanker filled the horizon. The governor was apparently the last official to give the OK before the attempt to ignite the ship with gasoline and a couple of dozen grenades. The governor said it is difficult to imagine that Oregon is suffering this fate.

Animal rescue workers are preparing for the worst on the Oregon coast. The leaking freighter has already spilled some oil, and a few birds have been brought to an animal center in North Bend. A team of experts in saving oil-soaked birds arrived yesterday from Berkeley, California. The beaches near the grounded New Carissa are some of the most biologically rich in Oregon. The federally protected snowy plover bird isn't in real danger because it lives mostly on dunes, but other seabirds could be in trouble. Lynda Shapiro -- director of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology -- says a spill of 400-thousand gallons of diesel and oil could be a disaster.

Here's a phone number to call to offer help: 541-756-2020.
At this time, the U. S. Coast Guard is not recruiting volunteers for the oil spill part of the clean up. The material on the beaches is a hazardous material and to clean it up requires specialized training. But other volunteer activities are underway. Several years ago, Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism trained a crew of statewide volunteers to be prepared to help whenever a disaster occurred in the future. But federal and state funding cutbacks stripped SOLV of the ability to marshall its volunteers.

Conservation groups say the effects of the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill are still being felt. A panel overseeing restoration efforts says only two species, river otters and bald eagles, have fully recovered from the effects of eleven million gallons of crude oil being spilled in Prince William sound. The conservation groups say 20 other species, like herring, salmon and harbor seals, are still recovering. The spill on March 23rd, 1989 killed thousands of animals and blackened hundreds of miles of Alaskan shoreline.

The burning of the grounded New Carissa would mark the biggest planned fire of a waterborne oil spill in U.S. history, but similar efforts elsewhere have had mixed and limited results.

Experts say burning can remove 90 percent of the oil - far more than collection efforts from beaches and water. The technique has been promoted within the oil industry for years.

``People tend to be scared about the idea of creating a fire,'' said Richard Golob, publisher of Golob's Oil Pollution Bulletin, an industry newsletter. ``But burning the oil to keep it out of the ocean environment has a tremendous capacity for good.'' In most cases, controlled burns have been used on land. On water, however, there are few precedents.

In 1967, British officials dropped napalm bombs on the Torrey Canyon, an oil tanker that had run aground 12 miles off the English coast. Rather than burning the oil, the explosion helped spread a 38-million-gallon oil spill that marred 130 miles of beaches. In March 1989, a small amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound was burned. The fire burned no more than 30,000 gallons of oil, a fraction of the 11 million that poured out of the Exxon Valdez's breached hull.

Near Grays Harbor, Wash., in 1988, a small amount of oil was burned from rocks after 253,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled when a barge collided with a tugboat on heavy seas.

On the New Carissa, the first attempt to burn the 400,000 gallons of fuel fizzled Wednesday evening. Officials planned to try again today.

The burning plan, announced Wednesday morning, caught the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality off guard.

With its spill response program slashed in half, department officials say they have had to rely on the Washington Department of Ecology, which has maintained an oil spill research program for several years.

``When you look at the pros and cons, you're faced with a major environmental hazard either way,'' said Sheryl Hutchison, a spokeswoman with the Washington Department of Ecology. ``With the smoke, you are creating an immense hazard, but if there are not people nearby, it may be a trade-off to having an even worse oil spill that is incredibly difficult to clean up.''

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-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

Burni ng Oil Poses Health Risks

Burning Oil Poses Health Risks

COOS BAY, Ore. Feb. 11, 1999 (AP) -- Black smoke from burning oil aboard a grounded cargo ship could pose a health risk to nearby residents, especially the elderly and those with lung disorders.

Dr. Sonia Buist, who heads pulmonary and critical care medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University, said there likely would be an increase in respiratory problems if smoke from the New Carissa blows over Coos Bay or other populated areas.

Authorities in charge of the operation hope to time the burn to prevent that from happening, with high winds dispersing the smoke toward the ocean.

But if the winds change, residents should act, Buist said.

"The most vulnerable people should stay indoors," she said. The people most at risk are those with lung disorders such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, along with the elderly suffering from disease.

Buist said the health effects depend on the volume and size of the carbon particles in the smoke plume.

"A lot of the smoke is going to have fairly large particles, which will mean that it can't get into your lungs," she said. "But the smaller particles can get down into your lungs."

When a particle lands in a lung airway, more mucus is produced to moisten and protect the airway lining, she said. When people have an existing lung disease, their symptoms increase and breathing becomes more difficult.

Jane Koenig, a professor of environmental health at the University of Washington, said recent studies have shown that fine particles also can affect the cardiac system.

"The research has linked some heart problems with inhaling particles, as well as causing lung inflammation and aggravating lung disorders," she said.

Koenig said people most at risk from inhaling particles might want to consider leaving the area until the fire operation is complete.

Coordinators of the ship fire said particulate matter in the smoke plume is the primary health concern.

"If there is a concern that the general public may be exposed to smoke from the burning oil, we will monitor particulate concentrations in populated areas," officials from the Unified Command team said in a statement.

Small particles of four-thousandths of an inch or less in diameter are of particular concern. Long-term exposure during months or years affects human health, they said, but short-term exposure to high concentrations can aggravate symptoms in people with heart or lung ailments.

In addition to carbon particles, an oil fire produces water vapor, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.

Studies have shown that the concentration of gases produced during oil burning are within safe levels for humans beyond three miles downwind of the source, authorities said.

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-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

KABOOM! Next round of explosions producing huge billows of heavy black smoke ...

-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

The ship is burning bright. Smoke everywhere, ashes covering land. NBC Nightly News reporting it. Scientist says oil smoke is proving over 100X more toxic than originally thought.

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-- Leska (, February 11, 1999.

Breakdowns Imperil Two Ships Off Vancouver Island

Tugboats are reported on the scene in an attempt to keep them from hitting rocks and breaking up

Saturday February 13, 1999, By Richard Read of The Oregonian staff

Two crippled cargo ships drifted near Vancouver Island on Friday, further reminders -- following the New Carissa disaster -- of potential hazards off the Northwest coast.

The Hanjin Elizabeth, en route from Japan to Seattle, broke down in rough seas off British Columbia and drifted toward islands in a Canadian bird sanctuary.

"Something knocked open an oil line, and hot oil is flowing freely through the engine room," said Canadian Air Force Capt. Blair Siemens of the Victoria Rescue Coordination Center.

Tugboats labored through 70-knot winds toward the powerless container ship, which narrowly missed one of the Scott islands.

A rescue tug attempted to tow the Hanjin Elizabeth to safety Friday night, but the line to the vessel broke, leaving it still adrift and heading north, said a center spokesman.

No one was hurt and no fuel spilled by late Friday from either the Hanjin Elizabeth or the Caria, a pulp carrier that broke down nearby.

The Caria is in more dire straits, said Capt. Gilles Bourgoin, of the Canadian air force. Another tug was attempting to tow the Caria late Friday night from its collision course with a cluster of small islands, Bourgoin said. If tow efforts fail, Bourgoin predicted that the Caria could run aground sometime early this morning.

Cargo backed up in Portland on Friday because of the mishap on the Hanjin Elizabeth, which was due Monday at the Port of Portland. The delay compounded problems for Hanjin, a South Korean steamship line, whose last ship in Portland was stranded this week by a two-day longshoremen's strike.

More than 2,000 large cargo ships steam to Oregon ports each year, many of them crossing the hazardous Columbia River Bar. As many as 5,000 more vessels visit ports in Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. Local pilots maneuver ships through hazardous currents and high waves on the bars up and down the coast.

Groundings are rare and disabling breakdowns aren't that common, but the New Carissa's loose anchor drives home the high stakes of international shipping. The Oregon coast's steep drop-off tends to keep ships away.

"There aren't that many places you can drop anchor, because the shelf drops off so fast," said Jim Townley, Columbia River Steamship Operators Association executive director.

An untold number of ships pass by Oregon on their way to and from Alaska, California and the Panama Canal. Most stick to the shortest routes, keeping them well offshore.

But the Hanjin Elizabeth and the Liberian-registered Caria were at the mercy of the ocean Friday. Their breakdowns followed those of three other ships in an unusual rash of problems in the area during the last two weeks.

The Caria, a 554-foot bulk carrier bound from Crofton, Canada, for China, had 20 people aboard. The Hanjin Elizabeth had 24 crew members. Rescue helicopters and a Canadian Coast Guard vessel were standing by.

Oil tankers carry by far the most petroleum products that could cause a spill, such as the Exxon Valdez disaster. Tankers, which are specially reinforced, call primarily on Puget Sound; Oregon gets oil by pipeline from out-of-state refineries.

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-- Leska (, February 14, 1999.

Shipwreck Latest Blow To Coos Bay

COOS BAY, Ore., Feb. 13  In the tiny Coos Bay fishing village of Charleston, the annual Crab Festival got under way Saturday, minus the fresh, succulent crustacean it celebrates. The festival comes after a desperate weeklong struggle to contain the fuel spill from a grounded cargo ship here.

THE GOOD NEWS: This years event may have the biggest turnout in years. Area motels are packed with military, oil spill clean-up crews, state and local environmental officials and journalists. The bad news: All the crab served will be frozen.

Isnt it ironic, said harbormaster Don Yost. The crab capital of the West Coast, and theres no fresh crab.

Crabbers here have been unable to get to their crab pots outside the bay, stopped in part by the same high winds and rough seas that drove the Japan-registered New Carissa into the sand dunes facing the open sea. The fishermen fear that when they do get to their catch, they will find it contaminated by the fuel spilled from the grounded ship.

As the crab festival went on, so did the battle to burn off oil remaining in the shattered ship.

Officials relit flames that had sputtered out Saturday, but they died again. Coast Guard officials said they will try again Sunday using the same sort of flammable gel wildland firefighters use to set backfires.

Red Newell, 70, eats crabs Saturday during the annual Crab Feed near Coos Bay, Ore. Despite the oil spill, Newell said he will continue to eat seafood from area companies: "It doesnt do any good to worry about it."

The drama of the past week has left Coos Bay residents in a bittersweet mood. They concede that Unified Command  the legion of navy, coast guard, state and local bureaucrats who swept into town this week  seems to have averted a major disaster.

On the other hand, the New Carissa spill will be another blow to the local economy  just the latest in a long series. They know, and the Unified Command admits, that no one actually knows just how much fuel spilled, nor how extensive the damage to the marine food chain that sustains this fishing economy.

Well find out the truth some day, as the stuff drifts in and surfaces, said a retired fisherman named Doug. And with a touch of cynicism about the federal government that characterizes this area, he said of the Unified Command reports: Youve seen The X Files. Believe nothing.

Theres no denying that Operation Carissa was a success in relative terms. The ship was carrying about 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel and bunker fuel  a condensed tar-like substance that can be converted to fuel. In a brilliant display of pyrotechnics, the Unified Command exploded charges on the fuel tanks  a strategy that started the fuel burning before the ship could break up and spill its toxic guts into the ocean.

So far, they are channeling their frustration with the federal government in a different direction. Local crab fishermen announced they would meet Wednesday to discuss a possible class-action suit against the Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the New Carissa incident.

According to Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, the fisherman have been complaining for some time that dredging operations in and around the harbor are leaving the mud and sand too close to the sand spit where the New Carissa ran aground and that the waters are becoming choppier where the ship lodged, maybe as a consequence of being shallower. Nick Furman, Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission executive director.

They were meeting about this even before the incident, said Furman, and they wonder if this was a factor in the incident.

The crab fishermen have been prevented from checking the damage to their crab pots for several weeks by inclement weather and now by safety restrictions surrounding the New Carissa area.

Meanwhile, spill containment teams moved to deploy booms  long chains of sausage-shaped floats  to block off and absorb oil before it reaches especially vulnerable coves and inlets. With each day that the ship continues to burn, the less threatened these areas will be.

So environmentalists here agree that for a last-ditch effort, the operation has surely lessened the tragedy for the dense wildlife that inhabits the coast. Theres no doubt that 400,000 gallons of fuel in this extremely rich and sensitive ecosystem would have been a major disaster, said Langdon Marsh, director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Still, fuel has been spilled, and it is not clear how much is out there, nor how far it will travel. Unified Command has restricted access to beach areas where clean-up crews are working. There are rumors that the sheen of the oil has reached into the South Slough  a backwater where the endangered Snowy Plover shore birds nest, described by Marsh as one of the richest areas of wildlife on the West Coast.

For sixty-something Doris Hockema, whose family has been in the fishing business for at least five generations, the damage wont be clear until her grandsons can get out to sea and check the crab pots  of which they have hundreds and hundreds. She said the crab-processing plant her family has always worked with has already warned her that it wont take any crab with a trace of contamination.

Hockema has seen plenty of hardship, but this is in many ways worse. Weve had storms, lost boats, lost men, all sorts of things, she said. But this affects everyone  not just crab fishermen, but draggers and deep-sea fishers, and of course all the businesses that depend on them.

And its not just the shoreline of Coos Bay that is vulnerable  its the entire economy, which has been in a slump throughout the 1990s. The areas logging industry has struggled in the face of growing conservation regulations, and suffered further when Asias demand for forest products plummeted in the ongoing regional economic crisis. Fishermen have run up against greater competition from farmed fish from abroad and tougher environmental regulations.

Thus, Coos Bay unemployment is in the 10-13 percent range, the highest in the state, and the harbor is languishing. The fleet of fishing rigs in Charleston Harbor has dropped to 250 from 450 nine years ago. Because of the New Carissa incident, and the network of booms in the way, the harbor has had to turn away sport fishermen. Its not good for our business, and this weekend well see more impact, said Yost. For this economy, he said, Its just one damn thing after another.

Its clear that the towns along the bay have tried to boost new kinds of commerce, with limited success. The roads are lined with recreational vehicle dealers, antique stores, and dotted with designer-coffee stands. From old fishermens haunts like Capn Johns Motel and the Itty Bitty Motel, guests can arrange for ATV rentals to scoot around on the dunes or rides in authentic World War II personnel carriers, or go on whale-watching tours. There is a handful of sailing yachts tying up in Charleston Harbor these days, but the rough sailing conditions limit that growth.

So Coos Bay residents are understandably underwhelmed by the Unified Command operation. Area residents are still looking for a good explanation why the captain of the New Carissa didnt take more convincing measures to avoid running aground. (Drugs and alcohol have been ruled out, say Coast Guard spokesmen.) And many people believe that local tugboats could have helped move the ship offshore before it was in danger of breaking up, but that the New Carissa owner waited for outside help, forcing a crisis situation.

The investigation is under way and the clean-up and environmental assessment will go on for months. In the meantime, there is little to do in Coos Bay but eat last seasons crab  and enjoy the boom in traffic as long as it lasts.

Adding to the misery, state officials on Friday closed down commercial oyster harvests from the area. Tarballs and a light sheen of oil from the grounded cargo ship have flowed about five miles into Coos Bay, prompting the states agriculture department to shut down harvests at the four oyster farms there.

Officials will test to see if the shellfish have been contaminated.

My opinion is that with the light amount of oil coming, in they will survive, said John Johnson, shellfish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Recreational shellfishing has also been banned in the area and crab fishermen have been unable to pull pots in an area around the grounded ship closed to the public.

We just dont want to take any risk of oiled shellfish getting out to the public, said Deb Cannon of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The spill came just as oyster farmers were preparing to set out new oysters for the next generation. Clausen lets her oysters grow three years before harvesting them.

Oyster growers are angry that even the little oil flowing toward sheltered tidal flats threatens $10 million worth of shellfish.

This is prime oyster growing ground, said Lilli Clausen, who with her husband, Max, has been growing oysters in Coos Bay since 1980 and ships them around the world. Whoever made the oil spill response didnt consider oysters.

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-- Leska (, February 14, 1999.

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