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What it was like scouring the southern California coast for wildlife affected by the oil spill.

Good afternoon.

Christopher Neely here, looking forward to answers concerning the Orange County oil spill.

After nearly a week of emergency response to contain the spill and with investigators trying to elucidate the cause, there are still more questions than answers. It is still unclear how much oil spilled from the broken pipeline off Huntington Beach or who is responsible. According to reports, an anchor likely struck the pipeline owned by Amplify Energy Corp., but whose anchor and whether the pipeline was damaged before the anchor impact is still under investigation.

Whether this spill will have a lasting environmental impact is another open question.. In addition to emergency responders and federal authorities, a group of dedicated people scoured the southern California coastline in search of affected wildlife. One was Laura Lockwood of the Monterey County SPCA, who was dispatched to the spill area as part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, an organization that partners with the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife during oil spill disasters.

When I met Lockwood earlier today, she was “caffeinated and doing well at the moment”. She had just returned to the central coast after two 11-hour days with the OWCN. While Lockwood has the certifications to care for oiled wildlife and enter hazardous areas (it worked to protect animals during the Paradise Fire in 2018 and the Carmel Valley Fires last year), it s This was his first experience with an oil spill disaster.

Lockwood says his team found several birds ranging from lightly oiled to soaked, which they worked to capture and bring back to their facilities for cleaning. Details on the types of birds and how many were scarce as Lockwood says the information is considered legal evidence and will be submitted in any legal action against the responsible party (s).

During his days in Southern California, Lockwood and his team began work between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. each morning. She says that on Thursday, with a load of gear and a Tyvek suit and sturdy boots, she and her partner walked 10 miles along the coast in search of animals. She says where it was concentrated, around Bolsa Chica State Beach and Anaheim Bay (about 4 miles north of Huntington Beach), there wasn’t much oil visible on the shores; however, she could see a layer farther from the coast.

“Fortunately the beaches where I was were remarkably clean,” Lockwood said. “The responders were mobilized very quickly and the cleaning teams were working from dawn to dusk. I saw oil on the water near the swampy areas.

Lockwood is back on the central coast for now and while she doesn’t expect to be needed in Orange County, her previous disaster experience tells her to prepare for the call.

“It’s impossible to know how long all of this will take” Lockwood said. “You don’t know that there are no oiled animals hiding somewhere. Things can change very quickly, which is the nature of disaster response. ”

Do you know anyone working on the Orange County oil spill or someone who was affected by it? I would love to hear some of your stories.

-Christopher Neely, editor, [email protected]

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