A barge carrying close to 1 million gallons of heavy oil Saturday collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel at Texas City, leaking about a fifth of its cargo near important bird habitats as the height of the spring migration approaches, and forcing all ship traffic to stop. The channel connecting Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is one of the world's busiest waterways for moving petrochemicals, and Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Sam Danus said Sunday that crews were skimming up the oil, but that it was not clear when the channel could reopen.
"Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez crashed into a reef in Prince William Sound, it appears we have not yet learned our lesson", said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "The impacts of oil spills continue long after TV cameras have gone home. It is still possible to find oil on the shores of Prince William Sound that is nearly as toxic as it was a quarter-century ago. Sea otter populations have recently returned to pre-spill levels, but orcas, herring and many other species still have a long road to recovery".
The Exxon Valdez oil spill began on March 24, 1989, when a 987-foot long oil tanker struck Bligh Reef, spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. The spill stood as the worst in U.S history until BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.