On the afternoon of Feb 7 1990, the single-hulled American Trader reported running aground off of Huntington Beach. Over 400,000 gallons of crude oil was released, extending 159 km2 from Long Beach Harbor south to the mouth of the Santa Ana River. More than 560 oiled birds were eventually collected for care, with an estimated 3,400 killed during the ensuing weeks (More detailed information on the environmental effects can be found on OSPR’s NRDA site).
Some good did come from this disaster, however. This event, in combination with the Exxon Valdez oil spill the year before, prompted the people of California to enact the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, which created the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of (Oil) Spill Prevention and Response and, eventually, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. This event also helped to form the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Orange County, one of the OWCN’s key partners in the greater Huntington Beach area.
For a personal reflection of this spill, please go to the Orange County Register’s article Oil Spill’s 20-Year Legacy: Death, New Life. Another very insightful and personal account can be read from the Huntington Beach Independent’s article entitled Natural Perspectives: Memories of a Dark Day.