Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunken Boats

Hard to believe this is still a problem, but it is congruent with our local government’s general historic lack of concern about our two rivers and what they mean to our community.

Old boats litter capital waterways
By Todd Milbourn -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 31, 2007

She might not look it, but the two-deck paddle-wheeler now crumbling into the Sacramento River used to be a star.

Fifty years ago, the vessel was riding high, spiriting Chinese rural laborers to freedom in "Blood Alley," a John Wayne movie filmed in the Delta. The boat later guided tourists down Gold Rush waterways as the "Spirit of Sacramento."

But these days it is a rusted-out, half-sunken hulk, a canvas for graffiti artists and a source of copper wire for thieves. Taking on water and listing at more than 45 degrees, the long-neglected vessel is kept from washing down the river only by a few warped cables tied to a disintegrating gangway.

Sadly, sights like this are becoming more familiar, said Sgt. Scott Maberry of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Marine Enforcement Detail.

As surrounding counties have cracked down on abandoned boats in recent years, Sacramento County has become a sort of dumping ground for derelict vessels, he said. Many are deliberately abandoned by owners refusing to pay the tens of thousands of dollars needed to remove their unseaworthy boats properly – a sort of maritime version of illegal dumping.

"It's far easier to tie it around a tree on a levee and walk away from it," Maberry said. "The problem with that is you're destroying the environment and you're creating a hazard for taxpayers out there with their families."