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Oil Leak Discovered by Workers in Alaska's Cook Inlet

FILE - In this March 7, 2016, photo, a ribbon of water cuts through the mud flats of Cook Inlet, just off the shore of Anchorage, Alaska. Natural gas is bubbling up from an underwater pipeline in Alaska's Cook Inlet, discovered on Feb 7, 2017, when a Hilcorp helicopter spotted bubbles at the surface and reported the leak.

An oil leak was discovered in Alaska's Cook Inlet on Saturday, causing a major oil and gas producer to shut down two of its platforms there, officials say.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC workers felt an impact on the company's Anna Platform shortly before noon Saturday, then noticed an oil sheen and bubbling from underwater, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The spill is on the west side of Cook Inlet, to the southwest of Anchorage.

Governor 'deeply concerned'

Officials say leak is from an underwater pipeline that is carrying more than 19,000 gallons of crude oil. It's not clear how much oil is spilling into the inlet. Hilcorp said it lowered the pressure in the line and has hired a diving contractor to investigate the leak.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential impact to the environment,” Gov. Bill Walker said in a statement Sunday. “Our Spill Prevention and Response Team has immediately responded, and is keeping me apprised of developments.”

Hilcorp, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Environmental Conservation have set up a command post in response to the spill. There are dozens of species of fish, birds and marine mammals likely to be in that area of Cook Inlet, possibly including endangered beluga whales, Steller sea lions and humpback whales.

Gas leak spotted in December

Natural gas has been leaking from another Hilcorp pipeline in the Cook Inlet since mid-December. The company temporarily shut down production last weekend, reducing the platforms' need for energy and allowing Hilcorp to reduce pressure in the leaking line.

The company said the sea ice is too thick to safely send divers down to fix the leak, so that line has not yet been repaired.

The two leaks are unrelated.

The governor cited the ongoing gas leak in his Sunday statement, noting that is has been less than a week since the temporary shutdown and calling the oil leak “significantly more harmful.”