Derelict tug remains stuck in Gastineau Channel

By July 3, 2018 August 31st, 2018 Community, Juneau, Oceans, Public Safety

The tugboat Lumberman sitting in Gastineau Channel at low tide (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

The state of Alaska hasn’t decided what to do with a derelict tug boat that’s been stranded in Gastineau Channel for more than a month.

Aaron Timian of the Department of Natural Resources confirmed that the Lumberman, a 130-ton tug, is on state tidelands. Last week DNR posted a trespassing notice on the vessel.

“But we have not decided if we are going to go ahead and take possession of it,” Timian said Tuesday.

The 107-foot tug was anchored for years in city waters near the entrance of Aurora Harbor. But on May 12 it broke one of its anchor lines and drifted with the tide up the channel.

Port officials say that makes it the state’s responsibility.

“Right now, the City and Borough of Juneau has no jurisdictional authority to deal with the Lumberman where it sits today,”  said Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil.

He said something has to be done before winter when stormy seas could break the tug apart, making salvage operations more difficult and expensive.

Initial cost estimates now put salvage and disposal at around $200,000.

Timian said the Lumberman doesn’t pose an immediate threat — for now.

“It could become a hazard to navigation in the channel should it move somewhere else or it could run into anything else in or along the channel should it pick up and move again,” Timian said.

The abandoned tugboat Lumberman sitting in Gastineau Channel at low tide on June 15, 2018, had served as an illegal live aboard for years. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

This has happened before: In 2015, another World War II-era tug, the Challenger, sank after falling into disrepair.

It cost about $2 million for the Coast Guard to hire contractors to salvage and dispose of the 96-foot vessel the following year.

Earlier this year, the Coast Guard boarded the Lumberman and removed heavy oils and other hazardous waste and potential pollutants. But as long as it doesn’t block navigation, the Coast Guard says the vessel is not its responsibility.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 92 this year requiring vessels to have titles that clarify ownership.

But port director Uchytil — a supporter of the bill — said that law alone won’t solve the problem.

“Vessels are only getting older,” he said. “We’re seeing World War II-era vessels that need to be disposed of and no municipalities, no state organization wants to jump in with both feet to say, ‘We’ll deal with the problem.’ It is a costly problem that nobody has the resources to deal with in an effective manner.”

The Lumberman is privately owned. But officials say owner Brenden Mattson has been out of contact with harbor officials for months.

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