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Heavy seas blamed for partial collapse of Nikiski dock that supports offshore drilling

A portion of the Offshore Systems Kenai dock in Nikiski collapsed on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Heavy seas and strong winds caused a large section of a dock in Nikiski that supports the Cook Inlet oil industry to collapse into the water Tuesday, officials said.

The mishap at the Offshore Systems Kenai dock, involving the loss of a section estimated at 50 feet wide by the U.S. Coast Guard, means the facility is indefinitely unable to provide fuel to the vessels that service offshore oil and gas platforms, said Lisa Krebs-Barsis, a supervisor for spill prevention and response in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

“I don’t know how deeply the impacts will be felt, but it will certainly will have an impact,” she said.

“That facility is close to the platforms and is the main servicing area for the platforms," which need fuel, potable water and other supplies, she said.

Other docks can be used, but they are farther away, she said.

Around 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled and dissipated into the Inlet, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa McKenzie, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

Photos provided by the Coast Guard show what appears to be pipelines poking from the earth after a chunk of the dock was ripped away.

A portion of the Offshore Systems Kenai dock in Nikiski, Alaska collapsed on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (United States Coast Guard)

Officials at the facility reported 70-knot winds and very high tides preceding the accident, said Krebs-Barsis. A weather forecast of the Inlet on Tuesday predicted 10-foot seas.

The responsible party for the fuel spill is Nikiski Fuel, the fuel operator at the dock, she said. She said both areas that provided fuel to vessels have been shut down.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that the dock continues to erode, but oil and hazardous materials have been removed. The north end where the accident occurred will be closed until permanent repairs are made, the statement said.

The closure of that section is being done "as a precaution to protect life and property as well as reduce further impact to the environment,” said Sean MacKenzie, Coast Guard captain of the Port for Western Alaska.

Two DEC responders sent to the scene Tuesday did not observe fuel on the beach, said Krebs-Barsis.

Hilcorp Alaska, the primary oil and gas operator in Cook Inlet, did not respond to requests for comment.

The dock is about 15 miles north of Kenai.

Krebs-Barsis said the facility will need approval from the DEC before fuel operations can resume. She said it’s unknown when that will be.

“They are trying to figure things out right now,” she said.

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