And if the Corps has to step in, it will likely be the end of the iconic ferry.
The Kalakala was blown into a derelict barge onshore during last week’s winter storm. As the tide retreated, the ship got caught on the barge and began listing to port at about 30 degrees, leaving the deck less than a foot above water.
“The vessel is likely damaged and highly susceptible to further injury or deterioration with any sudden impact or severe movement,” according to a Corps document.
On Friday, the Corps issued an emergency request for a contractor to stabilize the 276-foot vessel and tow it to a new location on Commencement Bay if needed. Corps spokesman William Dowell said the idea is to have a plan in place in case the Kalakala breaks loose or otherwise becomes a navigational or environmental hazard. The Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma, where the 1926 vessel has been moored for six years, is one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites. At the bottom of the waterway is a toxic layer of sediment contaminated with PCBs, arsenic and other harmful materials.
The Corps will not step in unless it has to, Dowell said, but if that happens, it will be the end of the historic vessel.
“The Corps isn’t in the job of towing this boat somewhere where they can fix it up,” he said. “We’re going to tow it somewhere and it’s going to be dismantled. Once we get involved, that’s it. We can’t stop the process.”
The Corps action comes after a desperate effort by the boat’s previous owner, Steve Rodrigues, to sell the Kalakala for as little as a dollar. Rodrigues, who purchased the Kalakala in 2003, had tried unsuccessfully to raise $49.5 million to restore the vessel.
The Art Deco ferry, once an icon of the Pacific Northwest on par with the Space Needle, has been moored on the Hylebos Waterway for six years. Last spring, the ship began taking on water and listing to the side. The Coast Guard gave Rodrigues until Dec. 19 to provide information on where he plans to move the boat. Concrete Technology Corporation, the owner of the site where the Kalakala is moored, terminated its lease and demanded that it be moved by the end of the year.
In late December, a notice on the Kalakala’s website announced that the boat had been sold for a dollar, but as of Sunday, the notice was no longer on the site. The boat remains moored at Concrete Technology’s site, and Rodrigues, who could not immediately be reached, is believed to still own it.
The hope is that the Corps will not have to seize the vessel, Dowell said.
“It’s a sad situation,” he said. “We don’t want this to happen at all.”