Crews salvage fishing vessel Miss Michelle

SEATTLE – After almost five days battling currents, tides and rough seas, salvage crews today successfully pumped the fuel off the partially submerged fishing vessel, Miss Michelle, near the entrance to Grays Harbor, Wash.

Since the vessel posed a navigational and environmental hazard, the Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology worked together with vessel representatives and private contractors to salvage the 58-foot vessel.

Efforts to salvage the vessel started Monday after the fishing vessel began taking on water shortly after leaving Westport about 6:45 a.m.

Although the cause is still under investigation, the captain of the Miss Michelle reported the vessel struck something, causing a hole in the fiberglass hull. He also initially told the Coast Guard that the vessel was carrying up to 1,000 gallons of oil and diesel fuel. The actual amount estimated on board later was revised to about 400 gallons.

State environmental officials were particularly concerned that the fuel posed a hazard to the Grays Harbor estuary, one of four major staging areas for shorebirds in North America and one of the largest concentrations of shorebirds on the West Coast south of Alaska. Salmon also are currently migrating in the estuary.

Shortly after the crew was rescued Monday morning, all but about ten feet of the vessel was underwater three miles from shore.

Salvage crews from Northwest Underwater Construction of Vancouver, Wash., were able to attach rigging to the stern of the Miss Michelle, and on Tuesday, the boat was under tow back to Westport when the line snapped.

Wednesday morning the drifting vessel was located, re-secured and towed back inside the jetty near Westport, only to be lost again during the tide change and before salvage operations could be completed.

The Miss Michelle drifted back into the ocean but was again secured on Thursday morning. The vessel was successfully towed into Grays Harbor where it was raised by a crane barge. Today crews were able to remove about 220 gallons of diesel fuel left in the tanks.

The Miss Michelle has been towed to Aberdeen, Wash., where it will be removed from the water.

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