Sunken tug’s oil spill leads to $970K bill for SF 

click to enlarge oil spill
  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Oil covered gloves hang in the washing room at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care Center after a spill in 2007. Another oil spill occurred in 2009 when a decrepit tugboat sank in the Bay.
The 2009 sinking of a decrepit World War II-era Navy tugboat — and subsequent oil spill — will cost The City almost $1 million under a proposed settlement with the Coast Guard, which cleaned up the mess.

The 100-foot Wenonah was one of two tugboats owned by the Historical Tugboat Education and Restoration Society tied up to Pier 1 on Treasure Island.

After springing a leak on the morning of Aug. 17, 2009, the Wenonah later sank completely into the Bay, where it began leaking about 100 gallons of fuel. The oil sheen reached as far as the Berkeley Marina.

Though the restoration society was responsible for the cleanup, pollution concerns led the Coast Guard to take over. The giant crane used to put together the new Bay Bridge, the Left Coast Lifter, had to be hired in order to get the tug out of the water.

Following the Wenonah’s recovery, the Coast Guard spent another $23,000 clearing the Nokomis — the sunken tug’s pier-mate at Treasure Island — of its fuel oil before it also could sink and spill. The Nokomis is an identical vintage tugboat that also fell into disrepair.

Though Pier 1 is Coast Guard property, The City is liable for damages because the pier is leased to the Treasure Island Development Authority, a city agency.

Last year, the Coast Guard sent The City a $973,000 bill to cover the costs of the crane and the cleanup.

The settlement over the incident was reviewed and approved by TIDA officials and awaits final approval from the Board of Supervisors.

Representatives from the Coast Guard declined to comment.

“We think it’s a prudent agreement that resolves the dispute amicably,” said Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, “and avoids the costs and risks of litigation.”

The federal government is not done collecting to cover the costs for the spill: litigation against the tugboat society and its president, Melissa Parker, is still pending.

The Wenonah and the Nokomis, one of the last surviving ships present during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor still in existence, were broken up and sold for scrap in Alameda in 2010.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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