By Mark Edward Nero
The US Coast Guard, California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the Army Corps of Engineers and other partner agencies have completed the removal of the petroleum products aboard a paddlewheel tour boat that capsized and took on water near San Francisco.
The 85-foot, 99-ton Spirit of Sacramento began taking on water Sept. 3 and capsized a day later in the Bethel Island area, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
On Sept. 28, following a righting and dewatering operation, the three-story vessel, which had been used as a prop in movies during the 1950s and later gave tours of the Delta, arrived at a US Army Corps of Engineers facility in Sausalito, California the afternoon of Sept. 30.
Global Diving and Salvage conducted petroleum product removal operations throughout the weekend and removed about 130 gallons of oily water mixture.
The Coast Guard said it has transferred the Spirit of Sacramento to the Environmental Protection Agency, which plans to remove hazardous material from the vessel at a later date. The Coast Guard says it plans to work with the EPA in the case that residual lube oils and other petroleum pollutants are discovered during the EPA's hazardous materials abatement process.
The vessel was once operated as a tour boat, taking passengers up and down the Sacramento River and into the Delta. In 2009, however, Sacramento city officials replaced the company that operated the craft. For at least the past three years, the Spirit of Sacramento had been harbored at a South San Francisco marina. It was purchased at auction in July, and less than two months later, it began to take on water and suddenly started sinking.
According to the Coast Guard, about $1.6 million was spent to pay for the vessel’s righting, dewatering and petroleum pollution removal. The money came from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is set aside to aid in oil removal activities and damage assessment costs incurred by the USCG.