OAKLEY — They can be bought for a song at a government auction and towed to the Delta, run aground and used as homes or junkyards, but many of these massive, derelict commercial vessels are abandoned and leaking pollutants into the waters.

In 2016, the Spirit of Sacramento, an 85-foot paddle-wheeler built in 1967, was bought at auction for $1,000 after its former owner couldn’t pay fees to Oyster Point Marina in San Francisco. The buyers tried to pilot it up through the Delta, but foundered in False River, an aptly named waterway. It eventually cost around $3 million to clean up.

Though the State Land Commission successfully located and sued the new owners for the costs, there’s often no owner for them to sue. To make matters worse, there is no money for removing commercial vessels, which are often the worst polluters, from the Delta waters.

AB 2441, authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), is hoping to change that. The bill will target just the five Delta counties — Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo — and would put around $6.5 million per year into an account to remove these vessels.

The money would come from state surface land leasing fees from the five Delta counties that are normally paid directly into the state’s general fund.

The abandoned boat problem has a number of forces driving it. The Bay Area’s housing crisis has pushed some humans to consider living in a half-sunken hulk ensconced in the coves of the Delta.

“They come from U.S. Marshal sales or state lien sales through marinas and they sell big commercial vessels for a few dollars and people tow them to the Delta; then they sink and they live on them until they’re unlivable and they go get another one,” said Peter Pelkofer, senior counsel and maritime attorney with the State Lands Commission.

Others see an opportunity. Old boats are sold at federal or state auctions for next to nothing and someone with big dreams comes through to purchase it, but either can’t make it seaworthy again or can’t pilot it themselves.

Even so, some derelict vessels are picturesque: A half-sunken fishing trawler sits off the Bay Point shoreline facing the foothills of Mount Diablo; an old tug, the Polaris, rests between a decaying dock and Four Fools Winery in Rodeo; a 1955 cruise ship, the Aurora, was being restored at a marina northwest of

Source:: East Bay – Science


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Bill aims to combat derelict freighters, trawlers and barges littering Delta

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