UPDATE: Sunken tug to be raised Thursday, investigation continues

A salvage team from Seattle is planning to raise the sunken tugboat
A salvage team from Seattle is planning to raise the sunken tugboat 'Chickamauga' Thursday.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

An official with the state of Department of Ecology said Wednesday that approximately 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the historic wooden tugboat "Chickamauga" after it sank while in its slip at the Eagle Harbor Marina last week.

The salvage company under contract to the Coast Guard is currently making preparations to rig the boat for lifting. A crane is expected to be brought on site Thursday morning.

Raising the boat will allow the salvage company to complete removal of all the oil and fuel from the boat, something the salvage team was previously unable to accomplish due to the vessel's precarious state.

The "Chickamauga" sank early Wednesday, Oct. 2, and officials said quick work by local emergency responders prevented a large spill into Eagle Harbor.

"Most of the oil released was contained in the boom," said Ecology spokesman Larry Altose. "It could have been a lot, but the impact to Eagle Harbor was greatly reduced by fast action taken by the fire department and the marina staff."

Altose praised the efforts of everyone involved in the response efforts, including the Coast Guard members of Sector Puget Sound Incident Management Team and divers of Global Diving & Salvage Inc., a Seattle-based contractor that specializes in containing chemical spills.

"They had it nailed within a half an hour of the call," he said of the first responders.

Through the course of the initial response, most of the tanks have been emptied and the containers have been sealed. Ecology estimates that approximately 400 gallons of fuel were onboard the vessel when it sank, and according to the incident report on their public website that they "recovered about 50 gallons from the vessel tanks."

Also listed on the online incident report is the as-yet-unnamed private owner as the "responsible party."

The sinking of the "Chickamauga" is still under investigation.

"I believe that they have since gotten in touch with the owner of the boat," Altose said of the incident investigators and marina personnel.

Altose explained that, pending investigations being conducted both by Ecology and the Coast Guard, the boat's owner could be financially responsible for the clean-up efforts which were primarily paid for through emergency funds in place for incidents of this nature.

"It would be a collection type of action," Altose said. "The government would attempt to recovery the cost on behalf of the taxpayers."

Altose added that the boat will have to be removed from the water due to its condition, and discussions are currently under way to decide how best to accomplish that.

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