A crew for a private contractor hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed an abandoned boat from Lake Tahoe Tuesday that sank off the lake’s south shore in January and was believed to be leaking oil.
The 40-foot (12 meters) recreational vessel was first reported Jan. 15 to have sunk in about 15 feet (4.5 meters) of water about 300 yards (274 meters) offshore from Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe, the EPA said.
The agency planned to spend about $20,000 on the effort in conjunction with the El Dorado County Sheriff, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
Repeated efforts by multiple agencies to identify and contact the owner of the vessel had been unsuccessful, EPA spokeswoman Margot Perez Sullivan said.
A crew for High Sierra Marine Inc. began the recovery effort at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, she said in an email to The Associated Press.
The recovery crew battled steady winds and about foot-tall waves crashing onto Pope Beach before the recovery was completed Tuesday afternoon, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported.
Jeff Cowen, spokesman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, told the Reno Gazette-Journal the boat will be taken to the U.S. Coast Guard’s facility in Tahoe City, where law enforcement will oversee the boat’s disposal or auction.
The Tribune reported the Coast Guard examined the boat when it first was reported sunk and found no pollution leaking into the lake. But the EPA said it received a report on Feb. 15 indicating the vessel had started leaking oil.
Perez Sullivan didn’t have any immediate estimate Tuesday of the amount of oil that may have leaked.
Cowen told the Gazette-Journal last week that when the Coast Guard revisited the boat again in February, the amount of oil around the boat was “minuscule.”
“We are taking it seriously, regardless of the amount,” Cowen said.
The boat was moored to a privately owned buoy, but the buoy owner was not aware of how the boat got there and is denying any responsibility, Cowen said.
Two weeks after the boat was reported, the sheriff’s office discovered its owner is dead and his next of kin “all said they don’t want anything to do with it,” Cowen said.