Oregon removes first hazardous vessel with new funding
October 19, 2023
The Oregon Department of State Lands this week reached a milestone in ensuring safe and healthy waterways statewide by removed the first hazardous vessel with newly approved funding.
The FV Tiffany, a 200-ton former fishing vessel built in 1939, became a hazard when it sank and spilled fuel into the Columbia River near Rainer in 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard responded, cleaning up the fuel and refloating the vessel. DSL began monitoring the vessel while also seeking resources for removal.
"The FV Tiffany wasn't just an eyesore," said DSL Interim Deputy Director Chris Castelli. "This ship was a vehicle for toxins going into the Columbia River."
Abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) like the Tiffany often contain harmful quantities of oil, lubricant, and other toxic substances in the materials used to construct the vessel.
"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 Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The Tiffany is the first waterway-polluting vessel to be removed using new funding approved by the Oregon Legislature in June.
"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."
That changed with House Bill 5029, with the Legislature providing $18.8 million from the Monsanto settlement to begin removing vessels and developing a statewide program for long-term solutions.
Preventing vessels from becoming hazards that contaminate water, degrade habitat, damage property, and impede navigation is a priority. Oregon state officials have sought to have vessel owners pay for cleanups and will explore options for recovering expenses incurred, currently estimated to be $1.42 million for the Tiffany.