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Work is underway to reposition a submerged tug before lifting it from waters off British Columbia’s central coast.
Ayla Brown of the Heiltsuk First Nation says salvage experts used chains attached to anchors to drag the Nathan E. Stewart about 300 metres into deeper waters of Seaforth Channel, west of Bella Bella. She says dragging began overnight and the tug had been pulled about 25 per cent of the way toward a salvage barge.
Once it is in deeper water, a crane will lift the 30−metre tug onto the salvage barge, but Brown says the operation was delayed due to tides and swells that made dragging unsafe. It’s hoped work can resume with the changing tide.
The Nathan E. Stewart ran aground on Oct. 31, spilling more than 100,000 litres of diesel and other contaminants. Since then, Fisheries officials have ordered closure of shellfish beds vital to the economy of the Heiltsuk Nation.
Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk chief councillor, said she was relieved to see movement of the tug after 29 days aground on the reef.
"The real impacts of this spill on our culturally significant harvesting ground are far from assessed. We continue to remain focused on the impacts of the spill on our community and their well−being," says Slett.
Photos posted by the First Nation earlier this week show the tug was leaking residual oils, Brown says.
"Those are heavy residual oils that could not be removed in the pumping process because they are trapped between the ceiling and walls," she says.
Despite slow progress dragging the tug, Brown hopes it will be out of the water soon.
"They can only pull on one of the tides, so they can pull for six hours, wait for six hours, pull for six, wait for six. That sounds like it’s how it’s going to go, as long as the weather co−operates."