Stephen L. Colby Response Switches Gears on Mississippi River – Salvage Update

Mike Schuler
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December 2, 2013

LECLAIRE, Iowa – The towboat Stephen L. Colby sits boomed off on the right descending bank of the Mississippi River near downtown LeClaire while response crews conduct cleanup and salvage operations, Dec. 1, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

A Unified Command set up in response to the Stephen L. Colby towboat sinking and oil spill on the Mississippi River has shifted its operations from lightering to salvage of the half-sunk vessel.

Response crews have been preparing the vessel Stephen L. Colby for salvage operations to begin raising the vessel out of the water as cleanup and recovery operations of spilled oil continued over the weekend.

Efforts to contain and clean up oil discharged from the vessel have been ongoing since the 144-foot towboat struck a submerged object and partially sank close to shore on November 25 near LeClaire, Iowa. All nine crewmembers made it off the vessel safely. The vessel was reported to be carrying 100,000 gallons of oil when it sank.

“As we shift from lightering operations to salvage operations the unified command is still focused on the safety of all personnel involved with the Stephen L. Colby Response and are working to ensure minimal impact to the environment,” said Chief Petty Officer Chris Lynch, response safety officer. “Within the next few days we will be slowly lifting the vessel from the riverbed to lessen the impact to the environment and ensure public safety.”

The unified command has deployed 3,000-feet of containment boom, 2,900-feet of sorbent boom, three skimmer vessels, four workboats and 29 response personnel for cleanup and salvage operations.

Approximately 51,685 gallons of oily-water mixture has been recovered from the river, along with the 88,601 gallons of oily-water mixture recovered from the vessel itself, an update from the Unified Command said Sunday.

A safety zone has been established along the Iowa riverbank extending outward approximately 1,000 feet from the wreck. The USCG is urging mariners needing to transit the safety zone to contact the vessel Marc on VHF-FM radio channel 16 and nine or call 563-320-5382.

The Stephen L. Colby is owned by Marquette Transportation and was built in 1967.

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