The hull of the “All American,” an 85-foot boat that caught fire in June, has floated in an industrial area of the Sacramento River for the past six weeks unclaimed.
Wednesday morning, the ship finally left the river. A barge loaded with construction machinery docked next to the boat and began to dismantle it, tearing up pieces of wood to transport them to a landfill.
Sacramento County leaders hope the extraction marks just the start of their new push to clean up the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta of dozens of derelict boats clogging the waterways. They say they can’t do it alone and are calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would set aside $25 million to begin cleanup work.
“It’s not often that the county sponsors a bill,” said Natasha Drane, Sacramento County government and legislative relations manager. “This issue is important to Sacramento County. We have over 30 abandoned ships in Sacramento County alone; that’s why we wanted to play a leadership role in this area. But we know and recognize that this is a statewide problem, which is why we are pursuing a statewide program.
Sacramento County is sponsoring Senate Bill 1065, introduced by Senator Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, which would create the California Derelict and Derelict Commercial Vessel Program to clean up derelict boats. The new program would create a standard source of funding for counties to clean up derelict ships, rather than making them dependent on emergency grants from the California State Lands Commission, as Sacramento County did in the case of “All-American”.
Sheri Pemberton, external affairs chief for the state Lands Commission, said the agency had been called in to clean up derelict and derelict vessels “a few times over the past couple of years.”
“It’s been a global problem for many years,” she added.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Spill Prevention Office handled the first oil spill which occurred when “All American” caught fire. According to bureau spokeswoman Mary Fricke, of the roughly 1,000 oil spill notifications the bureau receives each year, 25% come from derelict and derelict vessels.
Drane said the boat clearing is an example of what could happen across the state if SB 1085 passes. About 30 derelict and derelict ships are floating in Sacramento County and between 50 and 60 are in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Drane said. The statewide number is unknown, she said.
Drane added that she “believes the bill will go to the governor” because it has bipartisan support and has yet to receive a no vote.
“There is recognition of the importance of getting these boats out of the water,” she said. “They pollute and create navigational hazards and safety risks for other boaters.”