U.S. Army clears debris making way for ships to safely travel the Bay

All of the wind, rain and high water levels has sent loads of debris into San Pablo Bay, Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay. 

All three bays are major shipping lanes. 

To make way for ships to continue to pass through safely, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped to clear the water of massive tree limbs on Monday. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers debris collection vessel, A.B. Dillard, Jr. It is one of two debris recovery boats used.  

The ships are quite literally the "vacuums of the Bay." 

"With the higher tides and with the all the water coming from the rain, this stuff is gonna get loose and drift down into the central bay which is where most of the shipping is, said Kixon Meyers, Master of the Dillard. 

Recovery targets include trees, branches, parts of docks and piers, tanks, stray logs, storm runoff debris,  even loose or abandoned boats as well as dead animals. 

Much of the debris collected, floats just under the surface, and is reported by the coast guard or the ferry agencies.  

Experts say ferry boats are particularly vulnerable. 

"The ferries move at  a good rate because they want to get their passengers, you know, back and forth to the city on time and that piling could literally pierce the skin of the ship," said Meyers.

 Big ships have two Achilles heels to large debris, and if ships hit debris it can cause major damage. 

 Abandoned or loose boats, present a special night danger because have no running lights to warn off collisions.

In the 80 years that the debris boats have been plying the Bay, there's no way to know how many real tragedies have been averted by debris collection. 

During the El Nino of '96 and '97, football size fields of debris in the Bay, not only blocked boat entrance or exit at Pier 39, it also forced ships and ferries to reduce speeds.