4 Oily Birds Only Sign Left Of Barge Spill

Four oily birds on Guemes Island were the only remaining visible evidence yesterday of a 26,000-gallon diesel-fuel spill north of Anacortes.

An oily sheen from the leaking Crowley Barge 101 had dotted parts of Puget Sound from Guemes Island north to Point Roberts Saturday. But officials who flew over the area yesterday said the sheen had disappeared.

State Department of Ecology spokesman Ron Langley said the spill did little environmental damage because diesel is lighter than other types of oil, and because sun, wind and waves helped it dissipate and evaporate quickly.

A large gash in one loaded tank on the barge and a smaller crack in a second tank were discovered about 1 a.m. Saturday near Jack Island, 3 miles north of Anacortes, where the barge was to rendezvous with a tanker to transfer the diesel.

The leaks were halted within three hours, the holes patched later.

The four oiled birds seen on Guemes Island yesterday were not captured. Langley said two oiled birds, a loon and a bufflehead duck, were captured Saturday and taken to a Lynnwood bird-rescue center.

The duck died, he said, but the loon is expected to recover. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has asked anyone sighting injured birds or wildlife to phone (206) 664-8397.

Crowley Barge 101 remains off Jack Island. Langley and Charles Nalen of Crowley Marine Services, the barge's owner, said the cause of the leaks remains a mystery. The U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Ecology and state Office of Marine Safety are investigating.

The 2.6 million gallons of diesel remaining on the barge is being pumped to a smaller barge, then to the tanker for which it originally was intended. Nalen said the unloading should be completed this afternoon.

The barge then will be taken to Seattle for repairs, he said.