Story last updated at 1:33 p.m. Thursday, August 22, 2002

Pipeline remains troublesome task for BP
Sepp Jannotta

THE ENGINEERS AT BP AMOCO will head back to the drawing board after a second attempt to clean out an abandoned section of Cook Inlet pipeline failed. Crews from the oil conglomerate attempted to pressurize the line Tuesday morning, which runs from the Anna Platform on the west side of Cook Inlet to the area off Nikiski Point, in order to test it for leaks. Unfortunately the crews from BP as well as those from the 12 Cook Inlet Sill Prevention and Response Inc. vessels in the area reported seeing several slicks of oil on the surface. The presence of oil, even in apparently small amounts, meant that BP's original plans to flush the pipeline with a "pig" made of gel and foam were on hold once again. A pig is a nontoxic foam and gel mixture used to squeeze residual oil from abandoned lines. In June, preparations to run a pig through the line were halted when preliminary steps produced leaks. Last week the pipe was hot-tapped and a vacuum pump produced more than 20 barrels of oil and another 300 barrels of oily water. The sheen produced Tuesday were reportedly spread over a fairly long corridor. BP spokesperson Paul Laird said that after about 15 minutes, an oil sheen was detected on the surface of the inlet, indicating the pipe was too leaky to proceed with the plan to send in the pig. "We determined, along with (the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Coast Guard that there are leaks in the line, and we won't be able to repair them," Laird said. The line was last in use in 1974, when Amoco was operating the Anna Platform. When BP took over the line as part of its merger with Amoco, it was mistakenly believed the line was more or less clean, according to Laird. BP will now have to use a backup plan to get the remaining oil out of the line. Laird said BP plans to suck the remaining oil in the line, how much of which is unknown, out of high points in the line using vacuum trucks attached to the pipe. Laird said the cost of the project is expected to be in the $3.5 to $4 million range.

COOK INLET SPILL PREVENTION and Spill Response Inc. had 12 boats on hand to skim and soak up the small amounts of oil that escaped the pipeline through several leaks. CISPRI General Manager Doug Lentsh said the oil slicks were so thin that most of the bigger pieces of equipment were not needed. Cook Inlet Regional Citizen's Advisory Council Director of Operations Mike Munger went out on an overflight of the inlet Tuesday evening and saw no evidence of any serious oil spills. "We tracked the entire inlet from below Kenai to up past the Tyonek platform, and we saw absolutely nothing," Munger said. Lentsh, who was in the CISPRI command center, said that the response crews got in a good day's work even though not all the vessels got involved in the effort. Eight of the 12 vessels were commercial fishing vessels, predominantly seining boats. "It was an opportunity to prepare for a planned spill and get out there and get some of the commercial fishermen involved," Lentsh said. "But we still got a chance to exercise and task force a little bit. It was a very valuable day all the way around. Seiners participating in the effort were likely making between $1,000 and $1,500 depending on their boat and experience.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Well, for the $14.4 million project going up along the Sterling Highway in Homer, it's everything. The official name of the multi-agency facility commonly known as the Marine Center was announced last week. The 37,000-square foot building will be the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitors Center. In addition to an interactive exhibit and theater space, the building will house the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

A NOAA WORKER WAS KILLED when the hydrographic survey launch he was piloting in outer Prince William Sound capsized after being struck by high waves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week. Thirty-year-old Eric Koss of Woodinville, Wash., was killed Aug. 13. In typically rough seas, Koss and two other crew members from the NOAA hydrographic survey ship Rainier were in a small launch conducting surveys of the sea bottom off Point Elrington, Elrington Island, in Resurrection Bay around 1 p.m. when the launch was apparently hit by high waves. The boat was knocked sideways and capsized. The other two NOAA employees, David Fischman and NOAA Corps Ensign Jennifer Johnson made it safely to shore. Capt. James Gardner, NOAA Corps, who is commanding officer of Rainier, said Koss was a skilled seaman and enjoyed his work helping to collect survey data to update the region's nautical charts. Rainier is one of three NOAA hydrographic survey vessels that use side-scan and multibeam sonar systems to determine water depths and locate obstructions on the seafloor that are dangers to navigation. Rainier, which operates primarily in Alaska waters, carries six aluminum launches that operate in shallow waters.

COPPER RIVER SALMON are fought over by restaurants and chefs nationwide, with a clamor for bragging rights for being the first establishment to serve the fish each season. Despite the continued attention given to the highly prized Copper River sockeye and king salmon, local fishermen face many of the same problems as others throughout the state. With stocks declining and prices dropping, it is getting more and more difficult to make a living fishing. Which is why Cordova-area fishermen are questioning the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's recent decision to close the Copper River District to commercial gillnet fishing for nearly three weeks in the middle of the season. Fish and Game Assistant Management Biologist Dan Ashe said that escapement counts taken by early June were nearly 40,000 fish below expectations, prompting the closure. But by mid July, the run began to spike, he said, which is not uncommon. "The Copper River run usually comes in on a curve," he said. "Obviously the early run was pretty big given the harvest numbers (before the closure). However, the fish didn't seem to be committing to in-river migration."From the initial opener in May to mid-August, the district harvest stood at 1,250,823 sockeye, and 39,970 kings, Ashe said. The season reopened July 8, but Ashe said he is unwilling to make any further predictions. "How will the rest of the season go? Your guess is as good as mine," he said.

THE U.S. COMMISSION ON OCEAN,/b> Policy meeting at the Hotel Captain Cook's Discovery Ballroom in Anchorage kicked off Wednesday and continues through today, with presenters including Gov. Tony Knowles, Halibut Cove's Clem Tillion, and representatives from Oceana, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Alaska Draggers Association. Presentations cover coastal and ocean issues of concern to Alaska, including the management of fisheries and marine mammals, marine operations, enforcement and marine emergency planning and response. The Commission will use the information received at the meeting to help formulate its recommendations for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy, as required by the Oceans Act of 2000. The Anchorage meeting is the eighth in a series of nine region-specific commission meetings. The findings and recommendations that arise from these hearings will be presented to Congress and the President in 2003. For more information, visit the commission's Web site at

Homer News reporter Chris Bernard and Peninsula Clarion reporter Matt Tunseth contributed to this column.