PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – For 16 years, two large military boats have been left abandoned on the banks of the Columbia River by the Interstate Bridge.
After leaking oil and fuel on and off for years, the boats are finally being removed — bringing the start of what could remove hundreds of other boats across Oregon.
The Coast Guard is responsible for the cleanup and the state of Oregon will seize possession of the vessels. Meanwhile, Metro had to permit and pay for the actual removal.
U.S. Coast Guard captain Scott Jackson described the ships to KOIN 6 News saying “one, the Saclarissa, was a tug for the Navy. The other an old Coast Guard cutter, the Alert, belonged to the Coast Guard.”
While the two abandoned vessels have sat for 16 years, they became a problem in the last two when they began leaking fuel.
“Oil’s bad. No matter what it is, it could be a threat to the environment, and we have salmon populations, water fowl populations,” Capt. Jackson said.
The ships were brought in with the intention of being a museum, however that plan was sunk once the funding dried up.
Soon, the ships met a similar fate as the Coast Guard says squatters cut a hole in the ship causing it to sink and exposed more chemicals. Now, the Coast Guard is spending over $1 million to clean things up and Metro is spending $2 million to remove the vessels.
“This is success in partnership, this is leveraging unique responsibilities,” Capt. Jackson said.
These are two of the more than 300 vessels the state estimates are abandoned around Oregon. The state says removing them would cost $40 million.
Currently, around a dozen vessels are removed each year if they’re floating down river causing a hazard.
With a partnership in place, now funding is needed to address the rest.
“Ideally, we will be able to set up a state program to set up with different state agencies and federal partners to address this,” Capt. Jackson explained.
Metro is also working on a boat take-back program to get ahead of abandoned boats and hope to announce details of the program by the end of 2022.