The derelict tug, the Lumberman, at anchor in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The derelict tug, the Lumberman, at anchor in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Abandoned tugboat problem likely to linger

Action taken this week prevents disaster but when the boat will be moved is anyone’s guess

The plan is to spend up to $5,000 now instead of $500,000 later.

Tuesday, Global Diving, which was contracted by the City and Borough of Juneau Docks and Harbors Department, pumped water from the tug Lumberman located in Gastineau Channel and is visible to motorists driving to and from downtown and the Mendenhall Valley

“Even though it’s not our responsibility, we’re going to do right by the city and keep a small problem from becoming a large one,” said Deputy Harbormaster Matt Creswell over the phone Tuesday. “If it takes on water and sinks, it’s going to cost ungodly amounts of money to raise and dispose of it.”

Work costing up to $5,000 was approved by the Docks and Harbors Department, but the department is not claiming the boat, Creswell said.

Global Diving was contracted to pump water from snow and rain from the derelict tug, the Lumberman, in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Global Diving was contracted to pump water from snow and rain from the derelict tug, the Lumberman, in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

CBJ City Manager Rorie Watt said that’s because the 1940s-era boat is on state tidelands. Watt and Creswell said it should be the state’s responsibility to address the problem.

“The vessel is on state land that is managed by DNR,” said Chris Carpeneti, natural resources manager for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. “We’re aware of it. It’s privately owned. It’s in trespass on state land essentially.”

“It’s certainly a concern, we’ve been monitoring it,” he added. “It hasn’t caused any damage yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of future damage.”

Carpeneti said so far DNR has not attempted to initiate impounding procedures for the boat.

[Abandoned tugboat is in the middle of the Gastineau]

The boat has been at its current location since May 2018. Before that, the boat was anchored by Aurora Harbor, and the Docks and Harbors Department had directed its owner to move the boat because it had been anchored near the harbor for years.

Creswell identified the boat’s owner as Brenden Mattson, who did not respond to messages seeking comment. Creswell also said the state has been contacted about the boat.

“The wheels are turning,” Creswell said, but he added who will ultimately have to move the boat and when that will happen is undetermined.

The derelict tug, the Lumberman, at anchor in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The derelict tug, the Lumberman, at anchor in Gastineau Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Watt said it seems unlikely the state will address the problem, which Watt compared to a a slow-motion train wreck.

“We’re not excited about taking over new responsibilities from the state,” Watt said.

If the state does not take action, Creswell said he did not want to speculate about who would pay for removing the tug, and Watt said there is not a timeline for moving the boat.

Watt said it’s difficult to even picture what a best-case scenario looks like for the tugboat.

“Best case scenario: A really big eagle shows up and takes it away,” Watt said before being more serious. “I’m seeing a number of bad options.”

While that is being sorted out, Creswell said there does not seem to be much immediate risk of the boat sinking like the 96-foot-long tugboat Challenger did in September 2015.

[Federal government sues Juneau artist over sunken tugboat]

The bill for the Challenger cleanup was over $2.5 million, in part because the Coast Guard responded to contain lube oil and other materials from leaking.

Creswell said there are no hazardous materials on board the tug currently floating in the Gastineau Channel. Hazardous materials were removed from the boat after the Coast Guard found oily waste and other hazardous materials about the boat in January 2018.

“Even if it did sink, you wouldn’t have oil or hazardous materials,” Creswell said.

He emphasized that the boat does not seem to be destined to sink any time in the near future.

“The boat’s sturdy,” Creswell said. “It doesn’t seem to be any threat of sinking.”

He said the water that was pumped Tuesday is not water that’s been taken in through the hull and is just an attempt to keep a bad situation from getting any worse or more costly.

“This is simply rain water and snow melt,” Creswell said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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