Plan Taking Shape to Remove Abandoned and Derelict Vessels from Oregon Waterways

Posted on August 11, 2022

The State Land Board on Tuesday heard an update on plans to request $40 million to remove hazardous vessels and continue collaborative work with partners and communities 

CHARLESTON, Ore. – Removing abandoned and derelict vessels from Oregon’s waterways will be a focus in coming months, state officials said on Tuesday.

In June, the State Land Board directed the Department of State Lands to request $40 million in general funds during the state budget process to address the hundreds of commercial and recreational vessels littering Oregon’s waterways.

Abandoned and derelict vessels are a serious threat to waterway health and safety, said DSL Director Vicki Walker, creating both environmental and navigational hazards.

For years, DSL has been working with state, federal, and local partners to clean up and remove vessels. Collaborative efforts have resulted in removing hazardous vessels from waterways, said Walker, but lack of a statewide abandoned and derelict vessel program with dedicated funding has meant ongoing impact to the Common School Fund. Since 2017, the Common School Fund has expended $12.9 million removing commercial and recreational vessels from public waterways.

“Oregon’s schoolkids foot the bill for cleaning up abandoned and derelict vessels,” Walker said.  “Every dollar spent cleaning up these messes is a dollar out of the classroom.”

During Tuesday’s State Land Board meeting, DSL outlined how the $40 million in general funds would be used, with emphasis on removing the 19 known commercial vessels of concern statewide, as well as hundreds of recreational vessels. Read the removal plan memo.

DSL is currently working with federal, state, and local partners to remove four commercial vessels from waterways. Emergency removal of the Tourist No. 2, a former river ferry built in the 1920s, is underway in Astoria. Pollutants have been removed from the vessel, Walker said, but the vessel’s poor condition, proximity to a fuel dock and the navigational channel, and the continued impact of tides on the vessel’s structural integrity present an imminent threat to public health and safety.

“Not taking action to remove this hazard from the water is not an option,” she said.  “But Oregon’s schoolchildren are paying yet again to clean up a mess created by an irresponsible vessel owner. The Department will take every action to recoup the more than $1 million this cleanup will cost.”

Collaborative work is also continuing to remove the Sakarissa, Alert, and Tiffany, three vessels the Land Board in June directed the Department to address. The goal is to have all three vessels removed from the Columbia River by the end of 2022.

Walker emphasized the importance of collaboration to successfully remove these and other vessels – and the importance of engaging widely to refine the resources requested for the upcoming 2023-25 biennium.

“This is complex work, and the importance of ongoing collaboration to identify problems, priorities, and solutions cannot be understated,” she said. “DSL is committed to working with legislators, state and federal agencies, local governments, ports, and other partners to develop long-term comprehensive solutions for addressing abandoned and derelict vessels.”

Other State Land Board News

The State Land Board on Tuesday also appointed Dr. Karina Nielsen to the Oregon Ocean Science Trust; approved transferring management of about 5,000 acres of school forestlands from the Oregon Department of Forestry to DSL; approved a quitclaim deed exchange to clarify land ownership along the Willamette River in Benton County; and approved a permanent easement for the replacement of the Youngs River Road Bridge in Clatsop County. Additional information about these agenda items is available in the meeting packet. Meeting video is available on DSL’s YouTube Channel.

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