Russ Hazlett (left), a commercial fishing vessel inspector for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, performs a CFV safety exam in Kotzebue, Alaska, July 10, 2019. (Courtesy photo | U.S. Coast Guard)

Russ Hazlett (left), a commercial fishing vessel inspector for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, performs a CFV safety exam in Kotzebue, Alaska, July 10, 2019. (Courtesy photo | U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard pulls out stops in yearlong facilities inspection mission

Extra bodies and partnership with the Civil Air Patrol helped immensely

A yearlong Coast Guard mission to extend inspections to more than 300 bulk oil facilities in Alaska was only viable due to hard work and support from across the country, a press release said.

The Marine Safety Task Force, headquartered in Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, was launched this spring, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn. The MSTF was tasked with inspecting 380 bulk oil waterfront facilities, 346 of which are not connected to the road system.

“In the lower 48, Coast Guard inspectors can simply drive to fuel storage facilities to conduct inspections,” said Capt. Sean MacKenzie, sector commander, in the press release. “Up here in Alaska, getting our folks to these places requires flying and often demands expensive lodging. Working with budget and personnel limitations during the Coast Guard’s busiest time of year are just a few of the challenges we overcame this year.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Holly Hugunin, an inspector with Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, works with Kenny Morgan, a Morgan Fuels facility manager in Kalskag, Alaska, May 16, 2019. (Lt. Cmdr. David Evans | U.S. Coast Guard)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Holly Hugunin, an inspector with Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, works with Kenny Morgan, a Morgan Fuels facility manager in Kalskag, Alaska, May 16, 2019. (Lt. Cmdr. David Evans | U.S. Coast Guard)

The inspections were deemed necessary as harsh environmental conditions degraded the safety and integrity of the facilities and increased the chance of an oil spill. The facilities are crucial for providing oil to keep homes warm in winter.

“Remote oil pollution incidents are significantly higher in cost due to the resources needed for clean up,” MacKenzie said. “Inspectors had all these risks in mind when communicating to facility owners and operators about the cost of infrastructure upkeep and oil spill prevention versus the liability for clean-up costs associated with an oil spill.”

Transport and logistics to the widely scattered and largely inaccessible communities of rural Alaska was often the trickiest part of the operation. Finding the funding to get there and stay there, often for days at a time, was a severe constraint, MacKenzie said. Finding the bodies to perform the inspections was also difficult, pulling in active duty and reserve members from across Alaska and even the Lower 48 to fill out the inspection teams.

Civil Air Patrol provided extensive support, added Lt. Cmdr. Jereme Altendorf.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn Keeman (right), an inspector on temporary duty for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, prepares to inspect a fuel storage facility in Oscarville, Alaska, July 9, 2019. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Alyssa Zappe | U.S. Coast Guard)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn Keeman (right), an inspector on temporary duty for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, prepares to inspect a fuel storage facility in Oscarville, Alaska, July 9, 2019. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Alyssa Zappe | U.S. Coast Guard)

“Due to the constraints and cost of flying commercially, CAP pilots greatly enhanced our ability to execute missions in the Arctic and Western Alaska in 2019,” Altendorf said in a release. “The success of the MSTF initiative this summer was contingent upon the willingness of CAP leadership to support us, and the volunteer pilots who flew countless hours in support of our missions this summer.”

Across the state, MSTF personnel inspected five times as many oil facilities as last year, reaching 236 out of 380 of the target facilities. Coast Guardsmen on the ground in those communities were also able to inspect fishing vessels, perform hazmat container inspections and advise residents on how best to fix deficiencies going forward.

“2019 was a success for the MSTF initiative,” Altendorf said. “But this summer was also an educational experience for everyone involved. We learned a lot about what worked, what didn’t, and what we know we can improve upon. We’re in the process of planning for 2020 with the goal of completing the inspections we were not able to get to this year.”


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


More in News

Meals slated for children in Juneau over Thanksgiving weekend are arrayed on tables at Thunder Mountain High School on Nov. 25, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Luke Adams)
Font of plenty: JSD readies meals for Thanksgiving holiday

Nearly three tons of food got distributed for the long weekend.

Travelers arrive at the Juneau International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, made up only about half of what the airport normally sees in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Centennial Hall, seen here on Tuesday, Nov. 24, is being used by the City and Borough of Juneau as an emergency facility during the coronavirus pandemic and will not host the annual Public Market which has taken place every weekend after Thanksgiving since 1983. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Want to buy Alaskan? Closed by pandemic, Public Market goes virtual

Normally throngs of Juneauites would be lined up around the block…

To capture the unexpected action- the unrepeatable moment- it should be instinctive.  In order to build the story you have to shoot the adjective.  In this photo the bald eagle had waited patiently for the right moment to pounce on an unsuspecting vole… the unexpected.  The best way to accomplish this is to master the art of the most difficult subject to photograph– birds in flight.  In order to do this you must learn your gear; it must become part of your muscle memory so you can concentrate on the story you are witnessing.  Canon 5D Mark III, Tamron 150-600mm, shot at 600mm, ISO AUTO (1250), F6.3, 1/3200, Handheld. (Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt)
Focal Point: Great photos are just waiting in the wings

Learn to shoot the verb (and the bird).

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Construction of the new Glory Hall, above, is going smoothly, said executive director Mariya Lovishchuk on Nov. 24, 2020. (Courtesy photo / Thor Lindstam)
Building a brighter future: New Glory Hall reaches skyward

The structure is rapidly progressing, shouldering aside inclement weather.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Tuesday, Nov. 24

The most recent state and local numbers.

A sign seen near Twin Lakes on Sept. 17 encourages residents to wear cloth face coverings while in public. Health officials are asking Alaskans for help with contact tracing. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Health officials seek help with virus notification

Recent surge created a contact tracing backlog.

Most Read