CalRecycle Leads Cleanup of Abandoned Boats in Delta

The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is leading a critical project to remove abandoned commercial vessels and hazardous debris from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The work, which began last week, targets a variety of locations on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and associated waterways between Sacramento and Rio Vista.

“Abandoned vessels pose significant safety and environmental threats to our waterways,” CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen said. “By removing these illegally dumped hazards with the help of state and local partners, we continue California’s tradition of environmental stewardship while at the same time discouraging additional illegal dumping.”

Each site was identified for cleanup by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit or the State Lands Commission, and contains abandoned vessels as defined in the California Harbors and Navigational Code. The project is expected to last several weeks, though the timeline and project area may shift as water currents cause debris to move.

The cleanup builds on a similar March 2010 effort that resulted in the removal of multiple derelict boats near Fishermans Cut in the Delta, the estuary that provides drinking water to two-thirds of all Californians, is home to 500 plant and animal species, and attracts 12 million visitors annually.

In addition to abandoned vessels of varying sizes and stages of decay, marine debris ranging from simple litter to potentially hazardous pollutants—including oil, gas and diesel fuel, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, batteries, and paint—will also be removed as part of the project.

A private contractor, Pacific States Environmental, has been retained by CalRecycle to gather and separate waste materials using heavy equipment, marine salvage resources, commercial divers, and work crews. Once collected, trucks will haul materials to appropriate disposal or recycling facilities.

CalRecycle has committed $665,000 to the cleanup project through its Solid Waste Disposal Site Cleanup Program, and the State Water Resources Control Board has committed $100,000.

CalRecycle is responsible for investigation, cleanup, and enforcement of illegal solid waste disposal sites in California. The Solid Waste Disposal Site Cleanup Program supports CalRecycle’s mission to reduce the negative impacts of solid waste on public health and safety and helps local and regional entities reduce illegal dumping.

The program is funded through tipping fees collected when non-hazardous waste is deposited in landfills, currently $1.40/ton. About $5 million is allocated annually for a variety of program activities to clean up or prevent illegal dumping throughout California and encourage environmental preservation.

CalRecycle is the state’s leading authority on recycling, waste reduction, and product reuse. CalRecycle plays an important role in the stewardship of California’s vast resources and promotes innovation in technology to encourage economic and environmental sustainability. For more information, visit

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