Buccaneer preparing to begin work at West Eagle

Pointing out Homer’s year-round ice-free deepwater port and its designation as a port of refuge, Homer Mayor Beth Wythe welcomed the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council to Homer last week for the CIRCAC board’s quarterly meeting.

Noting harbor improvements that are planned, Wythe said, “We anticipate being able to expand our role as we work toward a better, deeper harbor. … Remember Homer as you do your long-term planning.”

Before working through the council’s agenda, President John Williams of Kenai read a proclamation honoring Homer resident Merritt Mitchell, who was not present at the meeting. It recognized Mitchell’s “outstanding service” as a board member and as a public member of CIRCAC’s Environmental Monitoring Committee, his “dedication and commitment to CIRCAC, the citizens of all the Kenai Peninsula, its people and environments,” and wished him a joyful retirement from volunteer service.

In addition to the board’s regular business, it heard several presentations, the first was an overview of the Cook Inlet Beluga Winter Prey Project, presented by Susan Saupe, CIRCAC’s director of science and research. The project includes the work of Drs. Dana Wetzel and John Reynolds of Motes Marine Laboratories. 

The summer beluga prey study done between 2008-2009, and the winter study done in 2011-2012 attempted to assess the diversity and abundance of resident fish populations in two suspected winter feeding areas and measured the PAH, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, considered the most toxic components of oil, in samples taken.

The project produced a limited sampling due, in part, to winter conditions and strong currents. While the results could suggest beluga get the majority of their food and energy from spring, summer and fall feedings, Saupe said more work is needed using different equipment to better understand what’s available.

The study will be presented to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which provided funding for the project, and for peer review before the final results are available within the next several months.  

Christina Anderson of Buccaneer Alaska gave an update on the company’s oil and gas exploration in Cook Inlet and on the Kenai Peninsula. The company has six offshore and three onshore wells.

Having wintered in Homer before being moved to Buccaneer’s offshore Cosmopolitan site north of Anchor Point, the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence is now being used at the Southern Cross Unit in the northwest area of Cook Inlet. 

“We found more than what we planned,” said Anderson of the Cosmopolitan results. “It’s still under test and evaluation and I have been told we probably won’t get the majority of that information until the middle of next month, but our geologists in the Houston office are running around like kids at Christmas, they’re so excited.”

Buccaneer is preparing to begin its West Eagle Project off East End Road. Fuel and water contracts have been secured and contracts for crew lodging are being finalized, according to Anderson.

“We will be mobilizing there through September into October and hope to be out of there before the first snow, specifically for the safety of the rig,” said Anderson.

Asked by the CIRCAC board about the timeline for the West Eagle work, Anderson said, “It doesn’t take much time to do what we need to do because of the total depth of the well. It’s far shallower than any offshore well.”

Leslie Pearson of Nuka Research provided an update on the Cook Inlet Navigation Risk Assessment and Harbor Safety Committee. 

“There are no harbor safety committees in Alaska at this time, and the whole basis, the intent behind this is to take some ad hoc groups and put them in a more formal committee,” said Pearson. 

Contracted by the U.S. Coast Guard, Nuka Research’s final product will be a report presenting recommended risk reduction options for vessel traffic on Cook Inlet.

Areas being addressed include enhanced navigational safety, improved spill response planning capabilities and risk reduction options. An approved work plan is being implemented, with work to be completed by September 2014. Reports of the Cook Inlet Risk Assessment group are available online at cookinletriskassessment.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.