Authorities should pursue penalty against vessel owner

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After months of work aimed at deconstruction and removal of the derelict ship the SS Davy Crockett, the last major piece of metal was hoisted out of the water on Thursday. It was a major milestone for the project that involved what was described as a “massive and carefully engineered” effort.

The project, taken on in January when the damaged, sinking vessel was discovered leaking oil into the Columbia River near Camas, resulted in the removal of 4.4 million pounds of steel, 838,432 pounds of debris, 1.6 million gallons of contaminated water, and 4,450 pounds of asbestos.

Many times during Thursday’s media event, authorities from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Coast Guard said bluntly that had the cleanup not taken place when it did, the potential negative environmental impact could have been devastating.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Daniel LeBlanc, the investigation into how, when and why the Davy Crockett ended up where it did is ongoing, and there is a good chance that the vessel’s last owner will be asked make an effort to repay some expenses.

But the reality is that with a cleanup price tag that is sure to go above $20 million, there is little chance that the federal government will see all of it paid back. Even so, authorities need to make a statement and aggressively pursue leveling a monetary penalty and recouping a least as small portion of the monies spent on the labor-intensive effort.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its natural beauty — mountains, forests, rivers, oceans. Those who choose to take deliberate actions that put those natural resources in serious jeopardy need to understand it will not be tolerated.