Unified Command for St. Simons Sound Incident Response finalizing plans for environmental protection barrier, wreck removal

The Unified Command (UC) for the St. Simons Sound Incident Response and assisting organizations are actively engaged in finalizing plans for the construction of an environmental protection barrier (EPB) to be built around the motor vessel Golden Ray.

The vessel’s owner and the UC are working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Savannah District, to obtain the required permits to begin construction of the EPB. The UC will release details about EPB construction plans and the wreck removal once required permits are issued.

USACE issued a public notice Wednesday indicating that the construction plan could potentially impact the federal navigation channel. The notice is open for public comment until Feb. 4.

Contractors are working daily, weather permitting, on preparing the Golden Ray for removal. Most recently, crews removed the side ramp and have been working on the stern ramp.  Removing these ramps will improve safety conditions and expedite operations to cut the vessel into sections for removal.

“While crews are actively engaged in ramp removal from the wreck itself, we are working back on shore with environmental, engineering and other experts to finalize plans for the EPB that will mitigate threats to the marine ecosystem when the Golden Ray is eventually cut into large sections and removed by barge,” said Kevin Perry of Gallagher Marine Systems, incident commander for the responsible party. “We are doing everything we can to get this wreck removal right. This includes considering every last detail of the EPB including how its construction will impact marine life and what level of noise the citizens of St. Simons Island can expect while it is being built.”

The UC for the St. Simons Sound Incident Response is comprised of the Coast Guard as the federal on scene coordinator, the Georgia Department of Natural Resource (DNR) as the state on scene coordinator, and Gallagher Marine Services as the incident commander for the responsible party.

“While the UC is made up of representatives from three organizations, we must consider input from multiple experts and stakeholders when moving forward with EPB and removal plans,” said John Maddox, Georgia Dept. of Natural Resource state on scene coordinator. “This is a complicated project with lots of moving parts. The UC is pleased that this phase of the planning process is almost complete and appreciates the patience of local residents and visitors of St. Simons as we get closer to removing the Golden Ray.”

The UC remains available to answer questions and verify information. The joint information center (JIC) for the St. Simons Sound Incident Response is the response’s official source of information. The JIC can be reached by phone at 912 944 7122 or email at simonsresponse@gmail.com.

St. Simons Sound Incident Response contractors remove a ramp from the motor vessel Golden Ray, near Brunswick, Georgia, Jan. 26, 2020. Contractors continue to work daily, weather permitting, on preparing the Golden Ray for removal—removing these ramps will improve safety conditions and expedite operations to cut the vessel into sections for removal. (Photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class James Himes)