While Juneau celebrates its new bronze whale sculpture, an old steel albatross is slowly sinking into the mud less than a mile away. The tug Lumberman was allowed to anchor on City and Borough of Juneau-owned tidelands for several years. All the while it was apparent to most that the vessel was not seaworthy and that it should be hauled out. Now that it has slipped its anchor and drifted onto state tidelands, the CBJ port director thinks CBJ is off the hook. Guess again. Unless CBJ residents are content to have the derelict tug welcoming them to town for years to come, someone needs to start looking for ways to fund its removal.
According to professional salvors, two things determine if a vessel is salvageable: safety and money. Two things are also known about this situation: It’s a lot less expensive to remove a vessel from the water while it still floats and it’s unlikely the State of Alaska has money available for this task.
Those who were here for the tug Challenger debacle might remember that it cost upwards of $1.4 million to remove it from the bottom of Gastineau Channel. The Lumberman is made of steel, is larger than the Challenger and could cost more.
The Lumberman should be refloated and towed off to a location where it can be hauled out for salvage. That will cost money, but it will be considerably cheaper than trying to remove it after it sinks. I urge CBJ to take the lead in working to remove the Lumberman from Gastineau Channel before it becomes an albatross around our necks for generations to come.