'Zombie boats' afflicting Portland area rivers costing taxpayers


A plague of what you might call "zombie boats," is afflicting Portland area rivers, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the Oregon State Marine Board, a total of 31 boats, many of which had sunk, have been removed in just the past two years, with 20 more on a waiting list for removal.

"They're just at the end of their useful life, and it's expensive to get rid of them, so a lot of times, people just walk away," said Rachel Graham, Policy and Environmental Manager for OSMB.

Most recently, a 37-foot pleasure cruiser sunk near Chinook Landing in the Columbia River.

Ken Estes, who owns a marine supply store nearby, said he saw it listing badly about a week before it went under.

"I had an interaction with the guy that was on the boat when it was listing. I came up close to it and he wasn't very friendly, yelled at me a little bit," said Estes.

Typically, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department, which patrols the Columbia River, would try to track down the boat's owner, whose responsibility it is to remove it.

Unfortunately, Graham said, in many cases, the boats were initially abandoned at a marina, by owners who couldn't pay moorage fees, then sold cheaply by the marina owner to someone who can't take care of them, much less pay to remove them.

"People live on them for a while, it doesn't work out, they're leaky and uncomfortable and people just walk away," said Graham.

The Marine Board's budget for removing abandoned and derelict boats (those in danger of sinking) is $75,000 a year.

After a couple expensive removals this year, the agency is out of money for the year, Graham said.

Graham said the most recent sinking of a boat on the Columbia River is still under investigation, but the Marine Board is considering dipping into an emergency fund to address the situation.

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