Obsolete ships are usually recycled, but due to a regulatory deadlock no ship has left Suisun Bay since January 2007. Some of the ships are nearly 70 years old.
Now under the Obama administration, the DOT has come up with a new plan that would begin removal of the ships that pose the greatest environmental concerns as soon as next month. The first two ships will be towed to drydock in San Francisco, cleaned up and then sent to a recycling center.
"Think of this as a major sea change," said DOT Deputy Director John Porcari. "What we're doing is going the extra mile. Taking the extra step."
Fifty-seven ships have been given "non-retention" status. Twenty-five of those have been identified for earliest possible removal, primarily due to exfoliating paint and other petroleum products leaking into the water. Bay Area environmentalists hope eventually all the ships will be gone from Suisun Bay.
"This is the approach we've been pushing for all along," said Bruce Wolfe, Executive Officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board. "We're still pursuing a lawsuit. We hoping to resolve that and we're very optimistic with what you've heard here today that we'll be able to do that."