Recovery of Aleutian Isle vessel is delayed

SAN JUAN ISLAND — The fishing vessel Aleutian Isle won’t be barged to a mainland facility until later this week, the Coast Guard said in a press release issued late Sunday night.

The 58-foot commercial fishing vessel, which sank on Aug. 13 and eventually settled to about 240 feet deep, was lifted to the surface Saturday, but crews were unable to completely dewater it, so the vessel’s weight exceeded the safe workload for the existing recovery plan, according to the Coast Guard.

Crews on Saturday removed about 775 gallons of oily-water mixture where it currently rests floating with assistance from the barge DB-24, according to the Coast Guard.

Recovery operations are estimated to resume in the next day or two.

“Raising the vessel to the surface is certainly a success, but the complexity of this operation continues to challenge our team,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Kira Moody, incident command.

“Lifting the boat was a critical first step to minimize the ongoing pollution risk,” Moody said.

“The next step will likely involve relocating the crane barge to a more sheltered location where we can fully secure the boat with far less risk to our divers and crew and better protect the environment from any lingering pollution risk.”

The onsite crane can lift the current weight of the boat, but the existing configuration of the rigging places too much stress on the vessel’s structure, which could cause it to break and likely release remaining fuel onboard, the Coast Guard said.

The pollution released when the boat was lifted that was containable was trapped with booms.

Wildlife and pollution mitigation teams were mobilized and successfully deterred birds from sheening during lift operations, the Coast Guard said.

Teams continue to actively monitor sheening, location of marine mammals, birds and impacts to shorelines.

Air quality monitoring and protective booming will remain in place until recovery operations conclude. Over the course of the response, there have been no levels of concern despite the smell of fuel in some locations.

Anyone who sees sheening is asked to call the National Response Center at: 800-424-8802.

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