JUNEAU, Alaska -- Coast Guard officials say work to remove a 96-foot tugboat from the Gastineau Channel has started nearly five months after the former World War II Army vehicle plunged beneath the waters.
Marc Burd, head of marine pollution response for Coast Guard Sector Juneau, said the Challenger, which sank Sept. 12, will be removed within three months. Divers from Global Diving and Salvage Inc. worked from the dock of the Juneau Yacht Club as they started the initial phase of the removal process Tuesday, The Juneau Empire reported.
"This is a significant operation when you have to go and ask permission from the Commandant of the Coast Guard," Burd said, explaining the details of the operation.
The Challenger was a tug and passenger boat for the U.S. Army until it was decommissioned and sold in 1946. It later operated as a "bunk and breakfast" in Seattle.
In coming weeks, divers will begin putting slings in place beneath the tugboat and a crane will do the heavy lifting. The boat is estimated to weigh between 280 and 330 long tons.
Once the Challenger is brought in, it will be pumped dry and towed to the Alaska-Juneau Mine dock. A specialty crew will remove hazardous materials, such as lead paint and asbestos, and then drain the engines and remove the batteries. The boat will then be towed to a beach, where it will be demolished.
Burd said the Coast Guard has been authorized to spend up to $900,000 on the removal and demolition process. About $300,000 has been spent so far, he said.
The owner of the tugboat, who has been identified as artist R.D. Robinson, is typically responsible for repaying those costs. But Burd said Robinson has denied ownership.
"As of right now, he's not claiming to have that responsibility," he said.