That sinking feeling: Sacramento lands $100,000 for abandoned boat clean-up

City officials say rotting boats are more than just ugly

Sacramento police hope risks caused by abandoned boats are about to be washed away by a $100,000 grant.

The Police Department received the grant in September from the California Division of Boating and Waterways. Known as SAVE, for “surrendered and abandoned vessel exchange,” the program gives local officers the financial means to pull empty and sometimes toxic boats out of portions of the Sacramento River surrounding the city.

As bad as the shabby and wrecked vessels look, officials say their biggest concerns are on the safety and environmental fronts. Police Department spokesman Eddie Macaulay said one of the main dangers from abandoned boats is that they sometimes prompt children, teenagers or transients to go exploring.

“What if kids climb inside, and the boat comes loose and drifts away?” Macaulay observed. “We’ve found transients living inside. These boats have been left behind for a reason. … They’re not safe as living quarters, without proper running water or much needed repairs.”

Officials are also worried about the negative environmental impacts, which often include oil, fluids and garbage drifting from the deteriorating vessels into the water. “When the boats are left abandoned, they eventually sink,” Macaulay explained. “It can cost a significant amount of money to raise them back up.”

In August, SN&R reporters observed six different abandoned boats in just two days on the Sacramento River, all between the city’s port and the unincorporated town of Courtland. SN&R documented still more abandoned vessels around the southern edge of the Sacramento County line near Isleton.

Contra Costa sheriff’s Deputy Gary Madison said the SAVE program has helped relieve waterway clutter and unsightly pollution in his corner of the Central Delta.

“It has made a noticeable difference,” Madison said.