State, federal government spend over $3 Million on abandoned ship removal

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 6:09 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Since 2006, the Alert and Sakarissa sat abandoned in the Columbia River off Hayden Island. But in a major breakthrough this week one of the vessels, the Sakarissa was finally towed away, and on Friday, a massive crane called the Pacific Lifter arrived to lift the other vessel, the Alert.

On Friday, city, state, and federal officials also gave an update on the operation, as it has been a multi-agency partnership to get the job done.

“We plan to begin operations to raise the Alert this weekend,” said Capt. Scott Jackson, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard in the Columbia River. “After all the oily waste is  removed from both of these vessels, they’ll be transferred to the Oregon Dept. of State Lands for disposal.”

This operation took some time to execute because of the cost and planning,  and coordination from the different agencies. The actual removal of the ships, according to Capt. Jackson,  carries a hefty price for the Coast Guard.

“To hire an oil spill response organization here, the lifters and stuff like that, right now we’re sitting at about $1.25 million for the cleanup part of it.”

And according to the Oregon Dept. of State Lands, it will cost the state an additional $2 million to take the ships apart and safely dispose of all the metal and machinery at a special facility. Capt. Jackson says two years ago his team cleaned up some of the oil and toxins leaking from the boats’ engines, but more complications arose once the boats sank.

“When the vessels actually sank earlier this year, that residual oil as well as trash, anything else that was brought on board, cooking oils, since we had cleaned the pumps, started bubbling to the surface.”

And though this operation does remove two huge potential hazards,  this isn’t the end of the overall problem. Bill Ryan, Deputy Director of the Oregon Dept. of State lands was also at the Friday briefing. He says there are dozens of more potential projects similar to the Alert and Sakarissa.

“There are literally hundreds of abandoned and derelict vessels in the state of Oregon,” said Ryan. “Large and small, and they’re seriously impacting the use of those waters.”

The Coast Guard says within the next week, the Alert will finally be lifted from the river and taken away to join the Sakarissa for further cleaning and disposal.