Abandoned boats removed in effort to clean up waterways


An excavator tears away at an old wooden fishing boat that's been rotting into the Delta at Fisherman's Cut for many years. It's part of a long-awaited effort to clean up massive debris at places like fisherman's cut near Bradford Island.

Sgt. Doug Powell is with the Contra Costa Sheriff's Marine Patrol -- one of several agencies that have spent more than a decade trying to get money for Delta cleanup.

"We're going to remove some of this stuff. We're going to clean up the waterways," said Powell. "That's been our mission since 1997."

It's happening now thanks to a joint effort with the state, called CalRecycle. Besides the boats, barges and assorted garbage dumped in the Delta, there are also buildings and all of it creates an environmental nightmare.

"We're looking at a lot of oil, hydrolic fuels, PCB containers, asbestos, lead paint, diesel fuel, all those types of things that you would find with commercial vessels," CalRecycle engineer Todd Thalhamer said.

"And all of that comes out into the water. A lot the people who abandon the boats too, simply leave them and they leave them with their diesel tanks half full. That becomes a big problem for water quality," David Glegern from the California Water Resources Board said.

Crews pumped water out of a submerged boat, and will try to float it to a staging area where it will be dismantled.

The boats that can't be floated are being demolished, piece by piece, and hauled away for proper disposal.

Already, great progress has been made since 2004, when there was no money for cleanup. The total cost of this project to the state is $565,000. It will be paid for with a combination of money from the cleanup and abatement accounts of the Water Resources Board and CalRecycle.

History has shown if the government doesn't do it, no one else will.

The hoarders, litterers and junk enthusiasts who haul the stuff to this island almost never have the means, or the will, to clean it up.

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