Crane to duck beneath bridge this week

Juneauites are expected to see an unusual sight on the waterfront this week as a large crane moves beneath the Juneau-Douglas Bridge to lift the sunken 96-foot tugboat Challenger.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s joint operations center, the crane will arrive from Hoonah on Thursday. The crane, transported by barge, is larger than the one currently driving pilings for the new cruise ship dock downtown. Last week, divers using much smaller cranes successfully placed four one-ton slings beneath the Challenger, which has been sitting on the bottom of Gastineau Channel since September, when the 1944-built wooden tugboat sank in a storm.

The Coast Guard will hold an open house on Tuesday for anyone interested in learning more about the removal of the Challenger from the channel. The open house will take place at the Douglas Island Pink and Chum fish hatchery on Channel Drive, next to the Empire building, between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The plan for removing the boat calls for the Challenger to be lifted from the channel bottom, pumped dry, then floated to a dock where hazardous materials will be stripped from the hulk. After the Challenger is cleaned, it will be towed to a beach for dismantling and disposal.

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