The U.S. Maritime Administration agreed to remove 52 rotting ships from the reserve fleet moored at Suisun Bay near San Francisco.
An agreement with environmental groups was filed in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation announced Thursday.
The agreement resolves a legal battle that started in 2007 with a suit initiated by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Arc Ecology and San Francisco Baykeeper. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board joined the suit a year later.
Marad has already begun removing obsolete ships from Suisun Bay for recycling, including four ships that have been removed since November 2009 and a fifth that was removed Thursday.
Under the agreement, Marad will remove 20 of the ships that are in the poorest condition prior to Sept. 30, 2012. The remaining ships will be maintained to prevent further pollution, and all ships at the site will be cleaned of flaking paint within two years and removed from the fleet by Sept. 30, 2017.
"The San Francisco Bay should never have been a dumping ground for toxic waste. Getting these ships cleaned up and removed is a huge victory for our environment and the people of California, said Michael Wall, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Obama administration has committed to a concrete, enforceable timetable for ending pollution violations that have been ongoing for a decade," said Wall.
“This agreement reflects the Obama Administration’s pledge to work with our local partners toward a common goal of better protecting the environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet Site is part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet, which consists of mothballed ships, mostly merchant vessels, that can be activated within 20 to 120 days to provide shipping for the country during national emergencies.
NDRF will continue to maintain reserve ships at Marad’s two other fleet storage sites in James River, Va. and Beaumont, Texas.
Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at email@example.com.