By Mark Edward Nero
A collaborative unified command, including the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, has been established in response to the sinking of the 112-foot freight barge Vengeance near the San Francisco Bay Bridge on April 7.
During a huge storm last Friday, the barge capsized and then settled on the sea floor above a subterranean Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tube, which is sheltered by a 25- to 30-foot protective layer of earth consisting of compacted sediment.
The Coast Guard says that regular sonar scans and tube inspections are being conducted to ensure the BART tube isn’t affected and that BART remains safe to operate.
Global Diving and Salvage has been hired by the barge’s owner, Vortex Marine Construction, to conduct underwater assessments and devise a salvage plan. The unified command is expected to review the salvage plan before salvage operations begin to ensure it can be conducted safely and efficiently.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew conducted an overflight Sunday and detected no sheen, but responders remain on scene prepared to deploy boom, according to the USCG.
Coast Guard Station San Francisco crews are enforcing a safety zone in the area to protect responders and watchstanders have issued a safety marine information broadcast to local mariners.
Shoreline teams have also been deployed throughout the surrounding areas to conduct assessments to the outlying areas and monitor wildlife, according to the USCG. While no impact to the shoreline has been detected, the responding agencies continue to prioritize and prepare for potential impacts to environmentally sensitive sites.
As of April 10, no visibly oiled wildlife had been reported or observed, according to the Coast Guard, but crews are said to still be monitoring.
Anyone seeing oiled wildlife is asked by authorities to not attempt to capture them, but instead report the sightings to (877) UCD-OWCN.