Derelict boats confiscated in Oakland-Alameda Estuary

California waterways belong to everybody, but some people think the rules don't apply to them. The Oakland Police, seeing a rising number of abandoned and illegal live aboard boats, swept the Oakland-Alameda Estuary today after having posted warnings for months on the offending boats. 

Using state grant money, Oakland Police, working with Alameda Police, used their patrol boats to locate and tow away abandoned, derelict and illegal boats from public docks, marina docks and anchored in open water. 

"Boats left completely abandoned are just creating a hazard to the marine life, environment and people operating on the water," said Officer Kaleo Albino of the Oakland Police Department.

Ten boats were scheduled for seizure or, in a few cases, voluntary surrender for free disposition.    They were brought to the Oakland Aquatic Center where a large backhoe pulled them out, detoxified them, broke them up and sent them off to a landfill. 

Some folks, despite months of repeated warnings, upon finding their boats gone, showed up very angry. 

One man screamed, "Yeah, everything. My entire life is in there." But, the harbormaster of five estuary marinas is not moved. 

"Typically these boats aren't registered or insured. They don't have proper sanitation and the people tend to live off the land which often means whatever they can steal out of marinas," said Oakland Marinas Harbormaster Brock De Lappe.

Some boats slip free of their moorings and become hazards to navigation. Rowing coach Maggie Simpson has been using the estuary for a decade as a rower and teacher. 

"With the derelict boats it gets very dangerous because they actually get unmoored and they float out into the waterway. So, when we’re practicing we actually have to dodge these boats," said Simpson.

Then there's the scary side. "A lot of times when we search these boats, we'll find remnants of narcotics, stolen property, and HAZMAT. We have found multiple boats in the past being used as what you would call a meth lab," said Officer Albino. 

That make them a serious fire hazard. "It's a bit unusual, but were seeing an increase," said the officer.

If this didn't go on, on a fairly regular basis then there would be a lot of derelict boats in the estuary. That would deny the people of Oakland and Alameda and visitors a really nice place to come, not to mention the fact of hazards to navigation and a toxic threat as well.