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DATE: January 4, 2013 5:07:00 PM AKST

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Unified Command Joint Information Center at (907) 433-3417
Update #21: Extensive air and sea activity as Kulluk recovery operations continue

Last updated: 5:07 p.m., Jan. 4

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Unified Command today continued with assessment of the Kulluk, deployment of recovery equipment and staging oil spill response equipment. Five important helicopter missions were safely completed. The Kulluk, a drilling unit, has been aground in Ocean Bay off Sitkalidak Island since the evening of Dec. 31, 2012.

“Today we staged critical response gear into the immediate area in preparation for recovery operations,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, Unified Command Federal On-Scene Coordinator, U.S. Coast Guard. “The weather window provided an excellent opportunity to make significant progress toward completing the operation.”

The Department of Defense is also supporting the response by providing two U.S. Army Chinook CH-47 helicopters. The helicopters are based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and are part of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. The Chinooks are forward staged in Kodiak.

On-water, 14 vessels have been mobilized to support the response and recovery. Three of these vessels are on location, with the other 11 either en route or on standby at nearby ports and harbors.

Vessels from as far away as Seattle are being mobilized. Most will be in place by the weekend.

“We continue to deploy all necessary resources to support the response and recovery efforts,” said Sean Churchfield, Incident Commander and Shell Alaska Operations Manager. “Our progress is good, but we still have work to do and will continue to keep a sharp focus on the safety of our response teams, and protecting the environment,” he said.

The helicopter activities included placing salvage assessors on-board the Kulluk, the third such placement in three days. The assessment team is providing critical information in support of development of a final recovery plan.

Two other flights included a check on the condition of the helicopter landing pad on board the Kulluk and the transport of power generators that will be used by the salvage assessment team.

Representatives of Unified Command also landed in Old Harbor to meet with village leaders. Previously planned visits were canceled due to poor weather.

"With a break in the weather, we were able to get representatives from the Unified Command to Old Harbor today to hear about the concerns of local residents,” said Duane Dvorak, Unified Command, Local On-Scene Coordinator.

“The people who live in the community have local knowledge and perspectives that are important contributions to the decision making process. The Unified Command will continue to consult with the community and value the insights they are providing," he said.

Another overflight included a three-person team of biologists who conducted an environmental and wildlife assessment from the air. One of the biologists represented U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while the other two represented LGL Alaska Research Associates Inc.

U.S. Coast Guard overflight of Kulluk aground    U.S. Coast Guard overflight of Kulluk aground    U.S. Coast Guard overflight of Kulluk aground
The Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc. vessel Perseverance is moored to the pier in Kodiak, Alaska, awaiting crew tasking related to the Kulluk Response Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The Perseverance is one of many vessels available and being used in the response to the grounding of the conical drilling unit. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.    Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Army 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, out of Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, land at Air Station Kodiak, Friday, Jan. 4, 2012. Members of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade are in Kodiak to assist with the lift and transportation of heavy equipment that will be moved to the Kulluk to assist with the salvage of the conical drilling unit. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.    USA CH-47 Chinooks at CGAS Kodiak. Click to watch video.

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