Crews remove three more junk boats from the Snohomish River
EVERETT – For months they hid on the invisible edges of the Snohomish River, clumped together on the riverbank by unsuitable boats.
A cabin cruiser and two sailboats in various stages of decay join dozens of other junk boats that have been removed from the river in recent years thanks to Snohomish County’s surface water management and the Department of Natural Resources’ program to remove derelict ships.
The cruiser known as Tolly’s Folly and a sailboat were pulled out of the river along with another boat abandoned near Jetty Island in mid-October. The remaining ship, a small yellow sailboat, was in worse shape than expected and needs additional equipment, said Elisa Dawson, chief planner for the county division. The crews are due to remove it next week.
If the boats are left unattended, they pose a threat to the water, aquatic life, or the people who travel across the river by spilling oil or leaving debris, she said.
“It’s really unfortunate that the area has so many boats,” said Dawson. “This is the primary habitat” for wildlife.
The three boats in the river weren’t alone. Five more are fixed there.
“We specifically focused on the ones that would be most beneficial to the environment and how much money we had,” said Dawson.
An old sailboat was stuck in the Snohomish River. (Snohomish County Surface Water Management)
Overall, the scrapping of all four boats cost the county about $ 50,000 – essentially draining the annual ship removal budget.
But the state program will reimburse the county for any expenses Dawson hopes will result in more moves in 2021.
“This will allow us to create this revolving fund that will allow us to continue removing decayed vessels,” she said.
In March and June, Dawson reported the boats to the state. In September she filed notices so that the county could take into custody each of the abandoned ships.
For years the river has had a problem with old junk boats. Larger ones, like the 100-foot-long Midas, have sat in the sand for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove. Others, like a sinking houseboat or a grounded sailboat, are easier to get out of.
When Dawson reported three of the boats in June, she was on another mission to clean up the local waters.
Accompanied by a team from Environmental Science Associates from Seattle, she spent four days documenting all the pillars of the river – the wooden pillars that are buried in sediment along the bank and protrude from the water.
Using a motorboat, a GPS device and a notepad, the group found and mapped the 15,564 piles in the river. This work culminated in a report on the stakes and their condition and threat to the environment to the county Marine Resources Committee, an advisory group to the surface water management department.
In total, the state, county, Everett Port, Tulalip Tribes, and the cities of Everett and Marysville, and 11 private companies each own property of 175 or more stakes.
The Snohomish River is home to more than 15,000 wooden piles, some of which could be removed. (Snohomish Marine Resources Committee)
“We were all curious about the stakes,” said Dawson. “We don’t have comprehensive data on it. … We certainly wonder what the history of some of them is. ”
The report will allow governments and businesses to go through each pile and determine its environmental benefit and determine whether it should be removed from the river.
Many of the stakes are remnants of the logging industry that once ruled Everett, she said. Others are just fir trunks.
About a sixth of them contain creosote, a tar-based treatment that was previously used to preserve wood, which is also environmentally harmful.
“We’re not suggesting that every pile needs to be removed,” she said. “Especially if they’re not creosote.”
Some stakes offer environmental benefits. When they are old enough, they create vegetation that provides shade, which is good for salmon. Others collect driftwood or stabilize river banks.
“Many of them have purposes,” said Dawson.
However, analysis of the report shows that around 7,000 of them, mostly owned by the state, are high priority removal. But there is still no plan to scrap anything.
Going forward, the county Marine Resources Committee will meet with government agencies and companies involved to discuss next steps, Dawson said.
Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; [email protected] Twitter: @byjoeythompson.