Contractors for the state Department of Ecology investigate a sunken sailboat Aug. 20 on the Snohomish River. Work to remove it could begin Oct. 21. (Joey Thompson /Herald file)

Contractors for the state Department of Ecology investigate a sunken sailboat Aug. 20 on the Snohomish River. Work to remove it could begin Oct. 21. (Joey Thompson /Herald file)

Snohomish River almost rid of its worst abandoned junk boats

The state took custody of a 50-foot homemade sailboat near where a 100-foot ship sat for a year.

EVERETT — Weeks after crews worked to dismantle and remove the 100-foot Midas from the Snohomish River, another sunken boat nearby awaits a similar fate.

The state Department of Natural Resource’s Derelict Vessels Removal Program took custody Monday of a 50-foot sailboat about half a mile north of where the Midas sat for more than a year. Contractors have until Oct. 15 to submit bids to remove the wreck, with the hope of having it out of the river by the end of the month, program manager Troy Wood said.

If a contractor is selected quickly, work could start Oct. 21.

Getting the boat out of local waters will require re-floating it or craning it onto a barge. Early cost estimates are between $40,000 and $100,000, Wood said.

The DNR tries to get those responsible for derelict boats to pay up through payment plans or collections agencies.

But, more often than not, the program either fails to identify or to make contact with owners, Wood said. In total, the state recovers less than half a percent of removal costs from owners.

Although the state is looking for bids to remove the boat, it’s not too late for the owner to step in.

The homemade sailboat’s owner, who still hasn’t returned any of the DNR’s calls, has a history of abandoning junk boats. Previously, he’s left derelict vessels near Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

The problem with this particular owner is finding him, Wood said.

“We really don’t expect him to respond,” he said. “Our hope is that the collections will be able to make good on his debt. If not, we’d look at whether or not he has assets, such as property, before we would move to placing the burden squarely on the taxpayers.”

So far, the DNR hasn’t spent much money on the project and would prefer the owner come forward and remove the vessel himself, Wood said.

If a boat owner either has no assets or refuses to pay, the DNR can hand the case to local authorities, which can lead to a stint in jail, a hefty ticket or community service hours.

That’s a last resort, though, Wood said.

“We want to give the owners every opportunity to be responsible for their property,” he said.

For the Midas, removal costs were estimated at about $400,000. Wood said Wednesday the program was still tabulating the final figure. The Midas’ owner, Richard Cook, has been responsive but not willing to pony up for his bill.

With the Midas gone and the sailboat approaching its final days, the river is a step closer to being totally void of high-risk derelict boats, but Wood said you never know when another might come along.

“Especially when it comes to the Snohomish River estuary,” he said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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