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Haven for Giant Oil Rig Skeleton Sought

September 13, 1986|RONALD B. TAYLOR | Times Staff Writer

The $25-million skeleton of Platform Gail will be temporarily docked somewhere on the Pacific Coast while Chevron Inc. appeals the California Coastal Commission's refusal to allow the giant oil rig to be located in the Santa Barbara Channel.

With all hope of reversing the commission's opposition dashed by Tuesday's 8-4 vote against the platform, Chevron quickly appealed to Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge and started searching for a harbor, hoping to store the huge framework at Long Beach, Astoria, Ore., or Ensenada, Mexico.

The appeal process will take at least 90 days, according to Joan Bondareff, attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency assigned to handle the case. Most observers believe that Baldridge most likely will approve the project but will set far less stringent safeguards against environmental impacts than the commission was trying to impose.

Chevron wants to place Gail in 750 feet of water nine miles off Point Hueneme, near the Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Ship Collision

Opponents fear that a well blowout or ship collision with the platform would cause an oil spill that could have a disastrous impact on nearby Anacapa Island, the location of the only permanent nesting colony of the endangered California brown pelican. The island is in the national park.

The platform skeleton was towed across the Pacific on a barge from Japan and arrived in mid-August. Certain it would get project approval in September, Chevron ordered the barge held at sea off the Channel Islands--at a cost of $200,000 a day--rather than parking it somewhere on the coast, according to Chevron's Douglas Uchikura.

"We were expecting to start installation this week, so it was simpler to keep (the platform) at sea, out of the way," Uchikura explained.

Towed in Circles

To prevent the 750-foot-long structure from drifting dangerously, two powerful tug boats towed it in circles not far from where it was to be located, five miles off Anacapa.

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