On Friday, the department announced they had removed their first vessel, a 200-ton fishing boat built in 1939, the FV Tiffany, which originally became hazardous in 2021 when it sank into the Columbia River spilling fuel near Rainer.
“The FV Tiffany wasn’t just an eyesore,” said DSL Interim Deputy Director Chris Castelli. “More significantly this ship was a vehicle for toxins going into the Columbia River.”
Abandoned vessels are hazardous to the environment because they can leak oil, lubricant and other toxic substances that were used in construction, the DSL said.
“Some samples taken from the FV Tiffany contained high levels of PCBs and lead which pose a threat to the aquatic environment and potentially even human health,” said Scott Smith, Spill Contingency Planner for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
When House Bill 5029 passed, it provided $18.8 million to begin removing vessels from waterways and to help form a long-term plan.
“Cleaning up vessels in the past meant using Common School Fund dollars,” explained DSL Director Vicki L. Walker. “Besides shortchanging Oregon school kids, lack of dedicated resources prevented the state from being able to proactively address the ADV problem.”
The DSL said their priorities are preventing vehicles from becoming hazards that can contaminate water, degrade habitats, damage property and impede navigation.
The FV Tiffany cost an estimated $1.42 million to remove and clean up, which the state said they hope will be paid for by the ship’s owner.