Private contractors working under the supervision of the coast guard began preparations last week for the long process of raising the barge that sunk during a winter storm at the Port McNeill Government Dock on Dec. 24.
The barge ended up sinking again on Jan. 8 and was reported to Environment Canada.
Port McNeill’s acting harbour manager Rebekah Adams said that crews did try to refloat the barge on Jan. 8, however, “in the process of de-watering it, they basically couldn’t get it light enough before the weather turned on them.”
Due to the waves and the wind from the storm, water came back on board and caused an issue with the weight of the barge, and it ended up capsizing again.
“Over the weekend (Jan. 9-10) they did a large amount of environmental cleanup in the area and they are currently doing environmental shoreline assessments and are formulating a new plan to get larger lift equipment to come in and do another salvage,” added Adams. “The situation is being monitored closely by the coast guard for any changes at the actual site.”
According to the coast guard, specialised heavy lift equipment has been contracted by the owner to return in early February to lift and remove the barge from the marine environment. The safety of responders is the top priority during this response.
The Alaska Plaza is an 80 foot, two-story steel accommodation barge owned and operated by Croman Corp. of Oregon USA.
When asked to comment, Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom responded by saying that council was “extremely disappointed when a substantial piece of salvage equipment could not remove the sunken barge. As it is a federal dock, this reclamation effort is not managed by our harbour. However, it is important for us to communicate to them that this is our community and the utmost care and attention needs to be dedicated to the recovery efforts. As a layman observing out my window, I don’t feel it’s been handled well thus far.”