Update 6:30 p.m.:Although the Galveston ferry is up and running again (on a 7 a.m. to 7p.m. schedule) there's still no word on when the Houston Ship Channel will reopen after more than 150,000 gallons of oil spilled into the waters. "We're still working as hard as we can," Lt. J.G. Kristopher Kidd of the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Information Center said. There were 43 ships waiting to come into Houston and 42 waiting to go out, he said. Ten ships were waiting to get into Galveston from Texas City and another 14 were waiting to get out.
Original Story: Quicker than you can spell environmental disaster, another major oil spill is affecting the Gulf Coast. This time, caused by the collision between a tanker and a barge that's shut down the Houston Ship Channel, according to reports.
Crews from state and government agencies are working on cleanup after a tanker collision over the weekend spilled more than 150,000 gallons of heavy oil into the Houston Ship Channel. Gov. Rick Perry's office issued statement saying Texas General Land Office was the lead agency on state cleanup efforts.
Close to 50 ships were blocked from entering the channel as late as Sunday, according to reports.
Kirby Inland Marine Corp, based in Houston, is the owner of the barge in the collision and the company is taking responsibility for the incident, according to Reuters.
The report says the crash, involving a cargo ship, spilled about 4,000 barrels of "residual fuel oil." The response to the spill included 24 oil skimming vessels, and more than 69,000 feet of floating barriers used to contain the spill.
The response included closing ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar, as well as evacuations in the Bay Area.
One of the larger concerns, however, reports the Associated Press is the effect on migrating birds.
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"The timing really couldn't be much worse since we're approaching the peak shorebird migration season," said Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society. He noted that just to the east is the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat.
The statement from the governor's officer went on to note that the Texas General Land Office has deployed multiple personnel to the incident site to manage the cleanup effort, and resources from the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are also assisting.
The barge, which reports said contained 900,000 gallons of oil, had been moved to a ship yard by Sunday. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
The Texas Tribune reports that we're not that far out from the last incident of this type: The most recent oil spill of a comparable size off the coast of Texas occurred in 2010, when close to a half-million gallons of oil ended up in the Port Arthur Ship Channel. The waterway was closed for several days, a big blow to oil refineries and other operations in the port.