Many environmental writers - this one included - have a tendency to focus on the latest scandal/natural disaster-related news, which make for more visible, high wattage stories; as a consequence, the eventual, often more meaningful resolutions to these stories tend to fall by the wayside. If you'll recall, oil spills accounted for a number of our posts last year, especially in the latter half. We're happy to report some good news in the case of at least one - the 58,000 gallon San Francisco Bay spill - which Bay Area authorities have managed to almost entirely clean up.Almost two months after the Cosco Busan's collision with one of the Bay Bridge's towers, which resulted in one of the region's largest oil spills, hazardous-materials workers have already removed all traces of the spill from 68 of the 69 affected miles of shoreline. They have been very effective at tackling occasional reports of tar balls or other spill leftovers. While the Coast Guard - which initially failed to convey the significance of the spill to local officials - remains under investigation, authorities have been pleased with the progress made.
Fortunately, sightings of oiled birds have fallen off in recent weeks, with Fish and Game officials and environmental groups reporting that the wildlife impacts have been more "moderate compared to what could have been" - though no less significant (out of 1,084 collected live oiled birds, 649 have died, with some putting the death toll at over 20,000 birds). Furthermore, tests on eel grass beds to ascertain whether any oil had sunk to the bottom have turned up negative.
The spill reached shorelines from Drake's Bay at Point Reyes to Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County; the remaining one mile of shoreline to be cleaned is located south of the Berkeley Marina and around Belvedere in Marin County. The total cost for the cleanup and damage claims, estimated to lie around $60 million, will be paid for by the Cosco Busan's owner; for their part, the ship's crewmen have been working to recover as much of the spilled oil as possible - close to 22,000 gallons so far.
When it reconvenes next week, the California legislature is expected to take up several dozen bills aimed at ameliorating oil spill cleanup measures; boosting volunteer cleanup training; and cutting the response time for contractors in the Bay Area by two-thirds, from 6 hours to 2.