Oil Spill Update #3: More Progress; Action on Cargo Ships

Friday, October 15, 2021
Dear Neighbor,

There is more significant progress to report regarding the oil spill that originated off the coast of Orange County. Scroll down to learn more. 
Image of workers removing tar balls.
A U.S. Coast Guard officer works alongside contractors to remove tar balls from shores in Oceanside Harbor Beach, Oct. 12, 2021. Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard 
  • Sampling teams have conducted water and sediment samples from all sites identified in both Orange and San Diego Counties. The water and sediment data received from Orange County samples do not indicate a public health concern for short-term exposures from the use of beaches in the county. This recommendation does not apply to fishing and harvesting activities, which are being addressed by the Seafood Sampling and Analysis Plan. Laboratory analyses for San Diego are expected to be completed in the coming days.
  • Six Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) Teams have been deployed to conduct surveys to assess shoreline impacts at Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Crystal Cove (including Treasure Cove, Los Trancos, Muddy Canyon, and Moro Canyon), Oceanside, San Clemente, Carlsbad, and Dana Point.
  • All harbors and state parks are open at this time. No beach closures are in effect in San Diego County. All Orange County beaches are open with the exceptions of Capistrano Beach and Poche Beach that remain closed due to construction. 
  • Specific beach openings and closing statuses are managed by local governments. Visit www.sdcountyemergency.com for the latest information regarding beach status in San Diego County. Visit www.ocgov.com/news for the latest information regarding beach status in Orange County.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice have joined other agencies in investigating the oil spill. On October 7, Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen and I requested the federal agency overseeing pipeline safety to conduct a full, transparent, and expeditious investigation of its own into the oil spill. Click here to read our letter.
  • The amount of oil released is less than the initial worst-case estimate of 131,000 gallons or more. On October 14, U.S. Coast Guard officials said they now believe about 25,000 gallons were released.
  • Officials are reviewing the deployed boom strategies to determine if they are still providing continued environmental benefit and if not, will begin demobilizing these strategies. Protection strategies are still deployed at the following locations:

    Orange County: Bolsa Chica Restored Wetlands, Talbert Marsh, Anaheim Bay, Newport Slough Wetland, Santa Ana River, and Aliso Creek.

    San Diego County: Santa Margarita River, Agua Hedionda Lagoon, Batiquitos Lagoon, San Elijo Lagoon, and San Dieguito Lagoon.
Cargo Ship Bottlenecks:
I share the concerns of the many constituents who have contacted me regarding the unusually high number of cargo ships anchored off our coast. With evidence suggesting that a ship’s anchor damaged a pipeline that led to the spill, it is understandable that many are concerned about the ships’ presence.

Here are the facts that help explain why there is a high number of ships off our coast:
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in e-commerce, with sales increasing 39 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020. At the same time, COVID has disrupted workers in key transportation and logistics nodes – the jobs of 1,800 Southern California port workers were disrupted because of COVID earlier this year.
  • COVID has also led to global shut downs and disruptions. The Chinese ports of Yantian (Shenzhen) and Ningbo-Zhoushan – two of the top five largest ports in the world – each experienced multi-week partial-terminal closures aimed at curbing COVID outbreaks, slowing global supply chains due to increased dwell times and cancelled sailings. This is one reason why I support more U.S. domestic manufacturing to reduce our reliance on foreign nations.
  • In September, hundreds of factories closed under lockdown restrictions in Vietnam, halting production that supports thousands of retailers worldwide. They have been slowly reopening but must still contend with mounting supply chain issues.
My staff and I have communicated the concern of the high number of ships off our coast to government officials, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, and other stakeholders. We have urged a strong response and I welcome the President’s announcement on October 13 of public and private commitments to move more goods faster through the supply chain, which would reduce the number of waiting ships off the coast.

These commitments include:
  • Keeping the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These two ports are the points of entry for 40 percent of the containers to the U.S. and have seen demand surge this year.
  • The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has announced its members are willing to work extra shifts.
  • Large companies including Walmart, UPS, FedEx, The Home Depot, Target, and Samsung have announced they will use expanded hours to move more cargo off the docks, so ships can come to shore faster.
These commitments are steps in the right direction and I will continue to do what I can to urge the public and private sectors to reduce the number of ships waiting off our coast. 

I will also continue to work with our communities to ensure they have what they need to respond and recover from the spill. We have a lot more work to do, but I am encouraged by the progress I have seen so far.

Last but not least, thank you to all the first responders, public servants, contractors, and volunteers for their efforts to clean affected areas and keep community members safe. Their efforts deserve our deepest appreciation.

Given the rapidly evolving nature of the spill and response efforts, please visit socalspillresponse.com for the latest information.



Senator, 36th District