Baykeeper Update

Polluting Abandoned Boats Being Removed from Oakland Estuary

This week the federal Environmental Protection Agency raised an abandoned and sunken tugboat from the floor of the Oakland Estuary, as part of a two-month operation to remove abandoned boats from the area. The funding for the removal of the tug comes in part from penalty fees paid by owners of the Cosco Busan, the container ship that spilled 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the Bay in 2007. Baykeeper advocated for using these penalty fees to clear abandoned boats from the Bay, in order to help clean up this widespread source of pollution.

Whether sunken or floating, abandoned vessels can pollute the Bay and create navigation obstacles for boats and ships. Sometimes boats and barges that still float are resold by marinas for as little as $1, and they become illicit collection sites for open barrels of oil, solvents, paint, and batteries. Other boats have become remote platforms for methamphetamine production. People also live on some abandoned boats, without any means of collecting or treating sewage.

Baykeeper’s successes in stopping pollution of the Bay from abandoned boats date from 2009, when our advocacy helped win passage of legislation that created a statewide turn-in program for unwanted boats. Penalties were also increased for those caught abandoning boats in California waterways.

In addition, we work in coalition with marinas, law enforcement agencies, salvage companies, and government agencies to clear the Bay and its tributaries of abandoned boats. On patrol in our own Baykeeper boat, we document abandoned boats to assist government agencies in taking action.

The first tugboat raised this week is part of a two-month effort to clear the Oakland Estuary of more than 40 abandoned boats. We look forward to a cleaner, safer Bay because of this removal project.

Photo by Brock de Lappe