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Oregon officials request $40 million to remove abandoned boats from waterways

Removing derelict vessels from Oregon's waterways is expensive. But it's far more expensive when they inevitably sink, spilling fuel and other toxins.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's State Land Board has requested $40 million in general funds to remove the hundreds of vessels littering Oregon's waterways after a succession of sunken ships and fuel spills.

“Commercial vessel cleanups come with big price tags. It’s often upwards of $1 million,” said Ali Ryan Hansen, Department of State Lands communications manager. “The recreational vessels don’t cost as much but there are a lot of them. And those cleanups add up. It’s also really hard to put a price tag on cleanups without having a professional inspect the vessel to know exactly what you’re looking at.” 

There are 19 known commercial vessels that are at the top of the list to be removed.

RELATED: Agency in charge of removing abandoned boats says it doesn't have enough money

Credit: KGW NEWS

“Getting an infusion of general fund — which we’re asking for in the department's budget — would go a long way to help us remove vessels from the waterways,” said Hansen.

The department is working with federal, state and local partners to remove four vessels by the end of the year. 

They include the Sakarissa and the Alert — two derelict vessels KGW toured last year — that are located in the Columbia River off Hayden Island. The Alert sunk last November, making the cost of removing it considerably higher.

RELATED: Oregon has no timeline for removing abandoned military vessels on Columbia River

But it’s not just those two boats. It’s also the Tiffany, a derelict vessel south of Lord Island on the Columbia, and the historic river ferry Tourist No. 2 in Astoria that capsized just two weeks ago.

“You know, that $40 million would help us with those cleanups to make waterways healthy and safe,” said Hansen, “and also make sure school kids do not have to foot the bill.”

For the last five years, $12.9 million has been taken from the Common School Fund to remove these vessels from public waterways.

Credit: KGW NEWS

In all, Hansen said that the removal plan will consist of three different stages

RELATED: Fuel removal scheduled for capsized historic ferry in Astoria

The first phase will include engaging stakeholders and updating cost information. The second phase will tackle hiring staff and developing a two year plan. The removal of commercial and recreational vessels will be the last phase for the time being.

“The department’s request for this funding is the beginning of the conversation,” says Hansen.

The efforts don't stop there. The Department of State Lands is hoping to adopt some sort of vessel turn-in program alongside other preventative measures. All this would make it easier for people to turn in unwanted vessels and harder for people to abandon their vessels in Oregon waterways.

Click here to read the full plan.

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