Coast Guard Works To Remove Sunken Ships From Columbia River

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two ships that have been abandoned in the Columbia river for years are being removed and the U.S. Coast Guard is working with state agencies to clean up the fuel and oil that leaked from the vessels.

The ships — a Navy tug called the Sakarissa and a Coast Guard cutter called the Alert — first arrived in Portland in 2006, and were brought near Hayden Island in hopes that they could be turned into a museum. But the funding for that project dried up, and they have been abandoned for more than a decade.

Both of the ships sunk two years ago. Bill Ryan with the Oregon Department of State Lands said it's not yet clear why the Alert sunk, but the Sakarissa floundered after someone salvaging metal cut through a pipe, causing it to flood.

The Coast Guard raised the 100-foot Sakarissa from the river on Monday and towed it to a repair service to remove the remaining oil waste from the ship. Work to remove the 125-foot Alert was expected to begin Saturday.

Metro Council, a regional government agency that serves three counties in northwest Oregon, is spending $2 million to have the ships removed, and the Coast Guard is spending more than $1 million to clean up.

The state estimates that there are more than 300 vessels abandoned around Oregon. Removing them all would cost an estimated $40 million.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Travis McGee said abandoned derelict vessels can pose a risk to the environment and to other boats attempting to navigate nearby.