JUNEAU, Alaska -- The group in charge of removing a 96-foot tugboat from the bottom of the Gastineau Channel is trying a different approach after finding the boat too heavy to manage.
The crew used a crane to bring the Challenger, which sunk Sept. 12, to the top of the water Sunday, but had difficulty trying to refloat the boat. The boat was expected to be moved to shallower water Monday where workers could pump out the water to lighten the boat's load, The Juneau Empire reported.
If the former WWII Army vehicle can be refloated, it will be taken to the Alaska-Juneau Mine dock to be stripped of hazardous material and then to a beach at the Rock Dump where it will be dismantled. If the boat has suffered too much damage, it will be dismantled on a nearby beach.
As for how long the process will take, "it's almost impossible to estimate," said Coast Guard petty officer Britany McKibben.
The effort to remove the Challenger is being supported by the Coast Guard, which controls the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that is paying for the removal. Officials do not know how much fuel and lube oil is on the boat, which is resting near a fish hatchery and the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge. Both areas are offered protection under the Coast Guard's oil spill response plans.
Cmdr. Marc Burd said earlier this month that 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 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.