U.S. Coast Guard Begins Process of Removing ‘Spirit of Sacramento’ from Delta

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BETHEL ISLAND -- The U.S. Coast Guard began the process of raising the sunken paddle wheel excursion boat "Spirit of Sacramento" on Wednesday.

A large crane on top of a barge had to be shipped from Seattle for the daunting job of re-floating the 82 foot vessel that sank on Sept. 4 off Bethel Island in the San Joaquin Delta.

Diesel had been seen leaking from the boat, but no additional fuel has been seen since a containment barrier was put around the wreck and sensitive shoreline areas.

Crews from Global Diving and Salvage have been welding attachment points on the boat for several weeks, which will be attached to chains from the crane.

"They’ll basically right the vessel and then slowly lift the vessel ... The water adds an immense amount of weight to the vessel, so they’ll lift it very slowly to allow the water to drain out, but they’ll have some pumps on there as well to pump water out," said Coast Guard Lt. Megan Mervar.

The owner did not respond to a 24-hour deadline to present a clean-up plan and the Coast Guard is using a spill clean-up fund funded by a per barrel tax on oil.

The total cost won't be known until after the operation is complete, but the owner may be liable for the cost of the salvage operation.

After the boat is re-floated it will be taken to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer facility in Sausalito where the unloading of pollutants will take place.