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State to vote on whether abandoned vessels in Sacramento County's Delta to be removed | Update

The California State Lands Commission will vote Thursday on whether officials can take ownership of two abandoned vessels in Sevenmile Slough and remove them.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California State Lands Commission said there are at least five vessels in "a waterway directly off the San Joaquin River in southern Sacramento County" that need to be removed.

On Thursday, the commission voted on if officials can take ownership of the abandoned vessels in the Sevenmile Slough and remove them. 

Friday, Sheri Pemberton with the California State lands Commission confirmed the Commission unanimously approved removing the two vessels.

The commission said in a staff report that since 2013, officials tried to compel Michael Skarry to remove his property in Sevenmile Slough, which are either grounded or sunk. The report states Skarry died in 2019, "without taking responsibility for his ADVs or leaving resources capable of addressing the debris." Since his death, state and federal officials have worked to monitor the debris for stability and safety.

Here is a breakdown of the five vessels that are in need of removal:

  • 93-foot-long tug Standard No. 2
  • 60-foot-long tug Valiant
  • Former military 120-foot-long crane barge BD-245
  • 40-foot-long crane barge Peanut
  • 60- to 80-foot-long sunk barge

On Thursday, the commission will hold a meeting where they will take up an action to authorize officials to remove two of the abandoned vessels. Those vessels are the Standard No. 2 and the tug Valiant, which remain floating.

The commission will vote on whether to take the title of the two vessels on behalf of the state and move forward with a plan to remove and dispose of the vessels in any manner deemed fit that does not harm the surrounding environment. The commission wrote this includes, "contracting up to $900,000 for removal and disposal or transferring title to another agency or entity capable of removal and disposal."

Following the removal, the commission looks to authorize the reimbursement of the cost of the removal through "any available administrative or civil means, if determined feasible and prudent."

Credit: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Marine Patrol Unit
A photo of the Tug Valiant expected to be removed by the California State Lands Commission.

According to the staff report, in 2019 the Department of Toxic Substances Control removed loose hazardous waste from the deck of one of the floating vessels. Then a year later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed there was hazardous waste and materials on the vessels. The commission found that removing the vessels from the water is the best solution to combat environmental threats.

"The debris also poses a threat to any person who attempts to board or salvage the vessels," the staff report reads. "The vessels are deteriorated and unsafe to board, with rusted decks and railings and potential voids."

They add that removing the vessels and debris will also deter a public safety threat.

Pemberton added the Commission authorized staff to expend up to $900,000 for removal and disposal activities and to share costs with local, state and federal agencies.

Read the full staff reporter from the commission here for a full breakdown of the history of the project being voted on Thursday afternoon here.

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