Cruise Ship Could Test Oily Waters in Houston Channel, Says Coast Guard

The Houston Ship Channel is looking a tad busier in the fourth day since a collision spilled close to 170,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay. This morning the ship channel opened to barge traffic, but full use is still a no-go.

According to Lt. Sam Danus of the U.S. Coast Guard, inbound and outbound traffic leaving the port to and from the Gulf of Mexico hasn't gotten approved yet. The Galveston Bolivar Ferry is still running on a limited 7a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule.

Coast Guard officials will allow the cruise ship Carnival Magic and a pilot boat to use the Channel as a test run before making a final decision on opening up the waterway to commerce, Danus said.

Changing currents, winds and weather conditions has extended oil recovery into the Gulf of Mexico and south along Galveston Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A total of 10 birds have died as a result of the spill, according to wildlife officials. But the overall impact of this spill isn't yet fully known.

"Really the hardest to clean up is the sensitive marshy grasslands," Robert Hetland, an oceanography at Texas A&M. "If it's sand you can scoop up [the oil], if it's rock you can spray it with a fire hose or use detergent," he said. Marine experts from the university have been called in to do an environmental study, according to reports.

U.S. Coast Guard officials are continuing to investigate which vessel may have caused the incident.

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