Water | Ecotrope

Video: Living on a derelict barge in the Columbia

Ecotrope | Oct. 11, 2011 2:38 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:34 p.m.

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The Wall Street Journal featured the out-of-work contractor who took up residence on a derelict barge in the Columbia River – with a video to boot.

David Harris started living on the abandoned 250-ton steel barge in early August in the hopes of towing it to shore and selling it for an estimated $75,000 scrap metal.

But the Coast Guard forbid him from unmooring the barge because he didn’t have an approved towing plan. On Friday, the barge went missing, and Harris said it sank, as he predicted it would.

The story underscores an ongoing dilemma with derelict barges on the Columbia. Remember the Davy Crockett, the abandoned barge that spilled oil into the Columbia when it started sinking earlier this year? The Oregonian sums up the problem:

“The number of those vessels is likely to rise, regulators say, in part because a ban on exporting ships for scrap has cut options for owners.

But there are big loopholes in the law, foggy regulatory authority and a lack of money to get rusting hulks out of the water. No one but ship owners, at times broke or absentee, is legally responsible for getting vessels aground.

“Barge 202 is the poster child because it has hit all of these legislative gaps,” said Randy Clark, a security specialist for Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “It’s kind of a crazy situation.”

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