(Not a recent photo)

UPDATE: Ryan Burns at the Lost Coast Outpost wrote a story about the incident after reading this post.

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The surf has been garbage lately (as usual), but apparently this ongoing junky swell might have been made even worse by a fuel spill, according to word on the beach. Some jetty regulars mentioned to me that they’d heard the fuel barge serving Eureka, Coos Bay, etc., crashed into the North Jetty, damaging its hull. A quick Google search confirmed something did indeed happen:

Potential Diesel Spill from Tank Barge under Tow offshore Eureka, CA

Initial Notification: On the evening of 20-JUN-2022, USCG Sector San Francisco contacted their NOAA SSC to discuss a potential diesel spill from the tank barge MONTEREY towed by the Tug APACHE. Reportedly, the aft portion of the MONTEREY contacted the entrance channel jetty as the tug & barge were departing Humboldt Bay, CA for Coos Bay, OR. The barge is carrying 40,000 bbls of diesel, and is holding station roughly 14NM NW of the Eureka entrance buoy with no indications of a release at this time. As local weather deteriorates, re-entering Humboldt Bay may pose some risk, so USCG is requesting fate & trajectory information to support COTP decision regarding tug & barge transit options.

Humboldt Bay is no stranger to fuel spills. Cal Poly Humboldt’s Department of Wildlife has a page tracking previous spills, the New York Times recounts a spill from 1970 and I remember the 1997 spill that happened just before we moved to Humboldt County – the biggest to hit the bay at the time and also the result of a punctured hull.

I believe the spill must still be under investigation and that a report will be released to the public soon. Hopefully we’ll find out:

  • How could this happen?
  • What preventative measures are in place and were they followed?
  • What measures have been put in place since to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
  • If the collision had punctured through the barge into the fuel tank, how much fuel could have been spilled?
  • If a spill happens, how is the community alerted and the damage contained?

If I hear more, I’ll be sure to share. And while we’re focusing on the health of Humboldt Bay, take a moment and give thanks for Humboldt Baykeeper – by “thanks,” I mean “money” – for tirelessly making sure our precious bay stays protected and cared for.