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Oil Washes Ashore Following Tug-Barge Accident off Washington Coast

December 24, 1988

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. (AP) _ Fuel oil darkened the sand at this resort town and soaked at least 50 birds after an oil spill of at least 70,000 gallons from a ship collision left a slick 30 miles long, authorities said.

Authorities closed 1 1/2 to 2 miles of beach in the area near here along the central Washington coast, where oiled birds were found. The area contains numerous wetlands and marshes that are home to migratory waterfowl.

The collision occurred Thursday night after a towline snapped in heavy seas, causing a tugboat from Sause Bros. Ocean Towing Inc., of Coos Bay, Ore., to collide with the barge Nestucca.

Authorities estimated 70,000 gallons of oil leaked from the barge off Grays Harbor by late Friday, said Bob Steelquist of the state Department of Wildlife, and Coast Guard officials said more was escaping as the vessel pitched and tossed in 15-foot swells about 25 miles off the coast.

In Portland, Ore., Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Guy Nolan said the spill was about 30 miles long and 100 feet wide. No damage or cleanup cost estimate was immediately available.

Global Diving and Salvage Inc. of Seattle was hired by Sause Bros. to clean up the mess, said Karen Johnson of the state Ecology Department.

The leaking barge was towed south Friday night to the mouth of the Columbia River, which separates Oregon and Washington. Company and government officials were planning to decide today whether to try to make repairs at sea or tow the barge to a port on the river.

Grays Harbor County Sheriff Dennis Morrisette closed a mile and a half of beaches as state Ecology Department officials prepared a rescue effort for oil-soaked birds. At least 50 oil-soaked birds had been found by late Friday.

″The latest reports I’m getting indicate an average of 12 dead or distressed birds are being found every quarter of a mile along the beach,″ said Mark Stewart of the state Division of Emergency Management.

Western Wildlife Rescue and Volunteers for Outdoor Washington established a bird-cleaning and recovery operation Friday at Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Church in Hoquiam.

Morrisette, who doubles as county director of emergency services, said the sand was darker than normal in the area.

The Nestucca carried 2.7 million gallons of oil, but the only reported damage was a gash about 18 inches below the main deck in a tank containing about 250,000 gallons.

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