The Elusive Dream sank again in 2020, knocking down another boat and spilling upwards of 214 gallons of diesel fuel. (Department of Ecology)

The Elusive Dream sank again in 2020, knocking down another boat and spilling upwards of 214 gallons of diesel fuel. (Department of Ecology)

Ecology again fines boat owner $70K for fuel spill in river

This time, the state was sterner about the spill in Steamboat Slough. They called Ron Barber’s actions negligent.

EVERETT — The state Department of Ecology has fined a Lake Stevens boat owner $70,000 for an oil and gas spill in Steamboat Slough, a branch of the Snohomish River.

Ron Barber owns a 75-foot fishing vessel called the Elusive Dream that has been derelict for over a decade. In August 2020, the vessel rolled over during a low tide and pushed a small boat underwater, causing both to sink.

Barber and others reportedly placed boom to try and contain the spill. He also tried floating the smaller boat, Shilo, with a bulldozer, but failed. He eventually resurfaced the Elusive Dream, though.

Ecology hired contractors to help out. The department estimates some 214 gallons of diesel got into the river, along with lubricating oil.

The two boats were moored at a “dilapidated dock on the slough,” according to an Ecology news release Thursday. At low tide, the Elusive Dream regularly bumped up against the bank.

The location and the tides were “both factors that contributed to the vessels’ eventual fate,” the news release says. The department noted Barber acted negligently as he moored his vessels “at a location where a spill was foreseeable.”

The Daily Herald has written about the Elusive Dream before, when it capsized in 2009 and the state slapped Barber with a $750 fine for spilling 50 gallons of diesel fuel into the waterway.

Back then, Ecology officials practiced mercy, calling the tipping of the vessel a fluke. The fine was typical of small spills where negligence wasn’t suspected, they said. But the Elusive Dream has remained derelict in the slough since then.

“The Steamboat Slough area is designated as a critical habitat for several federally listed species of wildlife,” the department noted in Thursday’s statement. “Even a small amount of diesel can cause impacts to the environment, and to birds, fish and other wildlife.”

Barber has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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