State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) sat in on a briefing with Gov. John Kitzhaber and numerous other state and federal leaders on both sides of the Columbia River yesterday on the status of the split and leaking derelict barge Davy Crockett just south of Camas, Wash. Johnson said leaders are now considering the leaked oil “a major spill” and the response is in federal hands.
No one knows how much oil may be inside the barge; it was formerly used to transport various grades of petroleum products and has a carrying capacity of 930,000 gallons. So far, 1,400 gallons of leaked oil have been collected and the vessel has been cordoned off with oil-absorbing booms to contain additional leakage.
This morning, the U.S. Coast Guard began ballasting one end of the ship to relieve stress on the hull structure. One end of the barge is submerged and sunken into the river bottom, preventing divers from accessing the barge to remove additional fuel that may be inside the vessel. OPB’s Kristian Foden-Vencil is on the scene right now, so we should have some more details a little later today.
Meanwhile, the bigger question that looms over the spill is how many more potential spills are floating in the Columbia right now. The Port of Astoria has a new tenant at its North Tongue Point industrial facility that has set up shop specifically to scrap derelict vessels on the Columbia. There are enough of these junk ships still hanging around in the river to build an entire business around dismantling them and selling them for scrap metal value. The Oregonian today called out the management system that allows the owners to pay minimal fines while leaving the liability on the river – which has turned into a de-facto junkyard.