Indian Cove boat now in Hoonah, cause of sinking still unknown

The boat that nearly sank in Indian Cove was towed to Hoonah earlier this week, Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough said Tuesday.

After it began sinking on Monday, Oct. 30, the owner worked to get the boat back up and floating by the morning of Thursday, Nov. 2. Colclough said that between 10 and 15 gallons of diesel leaked into the water of Indian Cove, but Coast Guard pollution responders from Sector Juneau and the owner of the boat — whom Colclough declined to name — were able to recover most of it.

They installed a boom, a floating dam used to contain a fuel spill, around the vessel and Colclough said that recovered most if not all of the leaked diesel.

“There are no further signs of sheening,” Colclough said Tuesday, “and no potential threat to the environment.”

The boat began sinking on the morning of Oct. 30, and the Coast Guard was contacted a little before noon. Coast Guard investigators saw a sheen to the water around the boat, Colclough said, suggesting that some fuel might have leaked out. Colclough said there was an estimated 150 gallons of diesel fuel on board at the time the boat began going down.

Initially the Coast Guard planned to have an outside company, Global Diving and Salvage, come in and handle the situation. The owner ended up installing boom of his own instead, which he ended up doing Tuesday evening.

When the vessel began to sink, the discharge of diesel fuel had at least one local organization concerned. Chuck Smythe, culture director at the Sealaska Heritage Institute, sent a message to the Coast Guard on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Indian Cove is adjacent to Indian Point, which is one of the original village sites of the Auk’w Kwáan. Indian Point was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

Smythe wrote that with the boat was sinking (and leaking fuel) near Indian Point, a sacred and historic site, the Coast Guard should have taken more urgent efforts.

“In our opinion,” Smythe’s message read, “the U.S. Coast Guard should take all necessary measures to protect this site and not depend upon the vessel owner to deploy boom to prevent the spread of an oil sheen, which first appeared on Monday.”

Smythe said the Coast Guard did eventually respond to his concerns, though he was referred to representatives in Anchorage instead of speaking with any local responders. Smythe said the Coast Guard representatives answered all of his questions.

Colclough said the cause of the sinking has yet to be determined, and that an investigation into it could take a few weeks at least. The owner of the boat is currently working to figure out the cause, Colclough said.

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