photos by Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire                                The derelict tugboat Lumberman lies moored to a city-owned pier on Sunday after coming adrift and grounding near Norway Point downtown.

photos by Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire The derelict tugboat Lumberman lies moored to a city-owned pier on Sunday after coming adrift and grounding near Norway Point downtown.

After unplanned voyage, run-away tugboat secured to city dock

City Docks and Habors likely to take responsibility for removing Lumberman

After an unplanned voyage down Gastineau Channel Saturday night, the derelict tugboat Lumberman is now tied up to a city dock.

The Coast Guard contracted with private companies and others to tow the Lumberman — which drug anchor and drifted several hundred feet Saturday toward downtown near Norway Point — to a city-owned pier downtown near Taku Fisheries.

“That’s where she’s gonna sit till we figure out a disposal plan,” City and Borough of Juneau Docks and Harbors Harbormaster Dave Borg said Monday. “There’s a lot of moving parts. Lots of things to figure out this week.”

Before the recent migration, the tug had been situated on state tidelands, making it the state’s responsibility to remove when the tug’s owner did not. Now, it appears to be the city’s responsibility.

“I think Docks and Harbors will take responsibility for it moving forward,” Carl Uchytil, head of CBJ Docks and Harbors, said Monday. “We’ll start the process here shortly to impound it and move forward as we would any other derelict vessel.”

The Lumberman has been sitting in Gastineau Channel — a patchwork of CBJ, state and federal land — since about May 2018, and presented jurisdictional issues for removal.

The Coast Guard, working with CBJ Docks and Harbors, contracted with Global Diving and Salvage, Amak Towing and the tugboat Taku Wind to move the Lumberman.

“The skipper on the Taku Wind handled it like a dream,” Borg said. “It went really smooth with the Coast Guard handling it.”

The Lumberman is structurally sound, Borg said. He added that contaminants, such as fuel or oil, were pumped out during an effort last year, so it’s safely moored alongside the pier.

Towing the vessel and securing it to the dock took emergency funding provided from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, according to Cmdr. Byron Hayes, Coast Guard District 17’s Response Department Head. That’s a federal fund that was put in place after the Exxon Valdez disaster, comes from taxes on oil companies and is used to clean up oil spills and environmental damage from those spills, small or large.

“For us to access that (money), it usually requires an actual or potential environmental threat,” Hayes said. “The second it starts moving down the channel, it becomes a substantial threat in the eyes of the federal on scene coordinator, Capt. (Stephen) White.”

White is the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Juneau. The total cost of moving the Lumberman is not yet known, Hayes said, but any money used from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has a cap set on it from the outset of the operation. The cap is also not known yet, and varies based on the expected needs of the operation. There is flexibility if an operation turns out to be more complicated than the initial assesment, Hayes said.

“We were able to take prompt action with our partners so it’s no longer in the middle of the channel posing an environmental threat,” Hayes said in an interview. “We had tugs here that weren’t contracted to do other things. They got underway, cut the ground tackle, took it in tow, and towed it safely.”

The owner of the Lumberman, Brendan Mattson, had not been in contact with authorities at this time, Borg said. The Empire attempted to contact him as well.

The tugboat Lumberman sits adrift in Gastineau Channel Sunday.

The tugboat Lumberman sits adrift in Gastineau Channel Sunday.

“There’s still an owner,” Borg said. “We’ve just made it safe for the public, in lieu of anyone else taking any action.”

For those who want a closer look at the tugboat, Borg cautioned that it is secured to a city-owned pier and that the boat is not open to the public. Climbing aboard would be considered trespassing.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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