GALVESTON, Tex. — Galveston Bay reopened to fishing Saturday, a week after a tanker-barge collision in the environmentally sensitive waterway that authorities now concede spilled far more oil than previously thought.
The state health department declared the entire bay open for taking of fin fish but, concerned about the continuing effects of the spill, maintained a ban on shellfish harvesting across much of the bay.
When salvage crews lifted one of the two barges damaged in the collision out of the bay, they found virtually no oil on board, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Todd Nelson said. That led to an increase in the estimate of the amount spilled from 500,000 gallons to more than 700,000 gallons.
In Beaumont, Tex., two lawsuits were filed on behalf of hundreds of people who say their livelihoods have suffered because of the July 28 spill in Galveston Bay.
Both class-action lawsuits name Apex RE&T Inc., owner of the barges, and Eletson Corp., owner of the tanker, as defendants. The suits seek monetary awards for each fisherman expected to lose money because of the spill.
A helicopter flyover Saturday morning found that southerly winds had pushed the oil north onto beaches around the Houston Point marshlands, Nelson said. At least 120 contract workers and 30 Coast Guard employees worked to clean that area, as well as beaches at Redfish Island.