Washington State Department of Ecology - August 9, 2013

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Agencies make new plan to remove sunken boat from Columbia River near Finley

SPOKANE – A 41-foot wooden fishing boat that sank July 12 in the Columbia River near Finley is submerged but stable, under at least six feet of water. A team of specialists is working on a new plan to safely remove the boat from the river bottom.

Federal, state and local officials took over efforts to remove the boat on July 23 after the owner was unable to do so.

A small sheen was observed immediately after sinking, but there has been no apparent release of fuel or oil since.

Agencies coordinating the removal include: the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Benton County Emergency Management Division.

Since the original recovery operation began on July 23, the team has overcome several hurdles, including removal of a 20-foot mast to lighten the load. On August 2, the boat was partially lifted from the river and moved to shallow water using inflatable pontoons.

Lead weights in the boat’s hull made it unbalanced, preventing towing it upriver to the Port of Pasco.

"In order to remove the environmental threat the team is going to remove the diesel fuel and engine and hydraulic oil on Tuesday, August 13," said Jeff Lewis, Ecology’s central region spills program manager. "A larger derrick barge will then be brought in, when available, to completely remove the boat hull."

Recovery and salvage are being paid for from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

Ecology and the coordinating agencies will seek cost reimbursement from the boat owner.

Global Diving & Salvage Inc. is the private contractor working to recover and secure the boat, offload the fuel and oil, and prevent environmental damage.

All oil spills cause environmental damage, regardless of size. Oil is toxic to the environment and the damage starts as soon as the oil hits water. A single quart of oil has the potential to foul more than 100,000 gallons of water.

For updates and photos of the progress follow @ecyspokane on Twitter #crboat and the Columbia River boat removal on Flickr.

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Media Contact: Brook Beeler, communication manager, 509-329-3478; brook.beeler@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Spills Preparedness and Response Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)

July 23, 2013 news release: Team of state, federal and local authorities to recover vessel from Columbia River bottom near Finley (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2013/190.html)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/socialmedia.html)