An oil spill response barge ran aground in Mud Bay off Kachemak Drive in Homer last Thursday after it got loose from its mooring in Kachemak Bay. By mid-afternoon March 31, after the tide came in, the Redoubt, operated by Cook Inlet Spill and Response Inc., or CISPRI, had been pulled off the beach and out into the bay.
“There’s good news on this,” said Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins on Thursday afternoon. “It’s off the beach right now.”
A barge designed to take on spilled oil, the Redoubt did not have any fuel on board and no spills were reported.
Hawkins said he first learned of the Redoubt breaking loose about 11 a.m. Thursday morning when he got a text from someone at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive saying “Is that barge supposed to be over here?”
Hawkins contacted CISPRI, but by then the Redoubt had moved into waters too shallow for its spill-response vessel Perseverance to respond. Seas this morning were about 5 feet with 10-12 knot east-northeast winds. The afternoon high tide was 19.7 feet at 3:09 p.m., and the Redoubt went aground on the incoming tide.
On the north shore of Kachemak Bay east of the Homer Spit, the Mud Bay beach consists of sandy beaches, mud flats and rocky beaches, with large boulders on the beach and in the shallows. The Redoubt ran aground about 1.5 miles from the intersection of Kachemak Drive and East End Road.
As the tide came in, “It kept going further and further up the beach,” Hawkins said.
Zech Bennett with C & C Dive and Salvage was able to get the 41-foot Alan G. close to the Redoubt and pull it out into deeper water. Bennett said he moved at about 2 knots per hour.
“It’s the story of the little tug that could,” Hawkins said. “… I’ll be damned if it didn’t move that barge.”
The Redoubt is part of CISPRI’s fleet of oil spill response vessels. Hawkins said it has a mooring in Kachemak Bay to keep the vessel on standby in the event of an oil spill. Because the mooring is in the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area, it must have a permit from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water’s Southcentral Regional Land Office has issued three permitted mooring buoys in that area to CISPRI, Lorraine Henry, director of communications for the DNR Commissioner’s Office, wrote in an email.
Cook Inletkeeper advocacy director and Inletkeeper Liz Mering noted that if the Redoubt had gotten stuck and then an oil spill happened, CISPRI would have lost an important asset for spill response. Her general concern was “making sure everyone’s looking at what went wrong to prevent it from happening,” she said.
“I’m glad we got lucky, but I’m hoping that the state is not planning to be lucky continuously,” Mering said.
Once the Alan G. pulled the Redoubt into deeper water, the tugboat Bob Frankel took over. Hawkins said he did not know if the Redoubt had any damage. He said Sector Anchorage and the Marine Safety Detachment of the U.S. Coast Guard have been notified. Hawkins said he was glad the Redoubt got hauled off the beach.
“I was envisioning a major salvage effort,” he said. “I’m glad that’s not the case.”
Still unknown is how the Redoubt got loose or what mechanisms were in place to notify responders when it broke free of the mooring.
“Several layers of things failed,” Mering said. “I hope that our system is not people watching Homer Communications” — the Facebook community news page.
A message was left with CISPRI seeking comment, but at press time they did not return several messages.