SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A firefight on the Sacramento River is over, but troubled waters remain.
“Once all the pollutants and hazmat are removed from this boat, it’s going to sit in the water,” said Natasha Drane, Sacramento County’s governmental and legislative officer.
Oil, fuel and other hazardous material spilled from an 85-foot boat that caught fire in the Sacramento River on Tuesday are contained and will be cleaned up. However, due to a lack of funding, the wreck will be left in the water.
The owner of the privately owned, former military watercraft still hasn’t been identified, but that’s not the only issue preventing crews from pulling the watercraft ashore.
“It requires a significant amount of funding in order to remove that boat,” Drane said.
This boat is just one of about 30 forgotten wrecks within Sacramento County’s waterways, formally called commercial derelict and abandoned vessels.
The problem is so huge it would take $34 million to remove them from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to Drane.
She says there is no comprehensive program that incorporates local, state and federal resources to remove the vessels. That’s why the county is advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 1065, which would formalize a program and request $25 million of one-time general funds to solve the problem. It has bipartisan support.
"The fact that commercial abandoned vessels are an eyesore, they also create public health and safety hazards - pollution can pollute our waters, and of course, they can create navigation hazards. Sometimes when they're under the water, boaters may not be able to see them and they create problems for us,” Drane said.
In 2016, an ABC0 investigation explored the issue and found it costs the Sacramento County Sheriff’s office about $200 per foot to remove a sunken or abandoned boat.
Safety laws and recycling regulations had pushed the ship recycling industry out of California— making it difficult for commercial vessels to be properly recycled.
However, when it comes to recreational vessels, state programs exist for owners to surrender their unwanted boats at no cost. In California, owners of recreational watercraft face fines up to $3,000 plus demolition costs if found abandoned in waterways.