It might not be pretty, but boat owner Steve Hammond and Steve Barkemeyer, manager of the Port of Astoria’s Pier 3 boatyard, said the yard is necessary for the aging vessels of the region.
“In 10 years, we’ve had seven or eight boats taken apart,” said Barkemeyer, whose Pier 3 boatyard includes about 40 work stations.
And last week came the latest demolition, when Hammond had his 97-year-old tuna-fishing boat the Charlotte B torn apart by a small excavator at the boatyard and cleaned up and taken away – all within a couple of days.
While Barkemeyer espouses his love of old boats, he’s unapologetic about the access the Port provides to owners seeking to tear a boat apart. Scrutiny developed around the issue of dismantling vessels when Frank Allen, the principal behind Blue Ocean Environmental, proposed dismantling vessels in a more environmentally friendly manner at North Tongue Point.
“It’s a bunch of double-standard bullshit,” said Allen, noting the years of planning and months of negotiations with the Port and city he’s had to go through. And he still hasn’t been able to dismantle the Cap’n Oscar, a small fishing vessel he hopes will serve as an example of his process.
But the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has so far signed off on the boatyard’s practices. Dave Kunz, a regional representative for DEQ, said the main focus of his agency is containment – keep the liquids, dusts and other debris from filtering into the environment. And if it happens, clean it up.
“If none of us boatyards are willing to do this, and they stay in the water, they’ll sink, and then they really become an environmental problem,” said Barkemeyer.
Hammond said he loved his old boat, but it simply became more cost-effective to buy a newer steel-hulled version rather than update the wooden Charlotte B. His newer vessel, the 16-year-old Charlotte B, is now moored at the East End Mooring Basin.
Hammond, whose old boat had been at the boatyard for two years, said he took his time, drained the boat and engine more than once and made sure to be ready if an accident happened during demolition.
The hull of his former boat laid on its side Jan. 21, its topside structure disemboweled by a small excavator and spilled out onto a blue tarp and the ground underneath. Unidentified, purplish liquid pooled in places on the bare ground, and foam insulation scattered out throughout the build area.
By Jan. 23, though, the spot was raked dirt, most visible evidence of a boat having been there gone, save for errant wires and other small bits of plastic and the like on the ground.
Barkemeyer said it’s the type of scene the DEQ has seen and signed off on before.
The Port has operated a self-service boatyard since 2004, and Barkemeyer’s quick to point out that it’s not even technically capable of “shipbreaking.” The popularized term describes operations breaking apart vessels of more than 200 gross tons haphazardly along the coastline in places such as Alang, India, and Galveston, Texas.
At the Port, the 88-ton lift hauls boats out of the water for $6.50 a foot. Owners can wash their vessels off in a self-contained electrocoagulation center. It removes, without using chemicals or filters, contaminants such as emulsified oil, total petroleum hydrocarbons, suspended solids and heavy metals that are impossible to remove by filtration or chemical treatment systems.
“Once a boat leaves here, there’s no washing,” said Barkemeyer.
Spaces at the boatyard where the Charlotte B was torn apart run about 30 cents per foot per day. Barkemeyer said the Port owns a couple of vessels that people have paid the fee for a short time before abandoning.
“It has to be economical, or people will just walk away from it,” said Barkemeyer about giving fishers a chance to get rid of their old boats.
Once a boat’s washed near the sea lift and taken to a work area, he requires such precautions as a tarpaulin under the demolition and vacuum attachments on sanding.
But Allen said it’s crazy how someone can get a $1,250 fine or time in jail for littering, but people can haphazardly tear apart their boats with little regard for the environment. He added that the dismantling taking place on Port property is a felony.
Clean Marina, circa 2009
“We’re part of the Clean Marina Program … and we absolutely are not interested in doing anything illegal,” said Barkemeyer of the Oregon Marine Board’s voluntary association of 61 marines statewide that go through extra monitoring to be certified “clean.”
The Port has been in the program since 2009, but it hasn’t been inspected by the program since it was accepted.
Italo Lenta, who took over in October as coordinator of the Clean Marina Program, said his agency doesn’t have the financial resources to inspect facilities very often. He’s in the process of inspecting many the marinas in the program for his first time, adding that he’ll make it out to Astoria in the coming weeks.