Last week, DOT's Maritime Administration, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with other environmental groups, agreed on a plan developed in October 2009 to remove 52 obsolete ships from California's Suisun Bay for recycling. Since we announced our commitment to cleaning up and recycling these dilapidated ships last fall, the Maritime Administration has already removed five ships--with the fifth departing last Wednesday.
This agreement reflects President Obama's commitment to protect the environment and his pledge to work with local groups to make that important goal a reality.
As Congressman George Miller noted:
"During the last eight years, virtually no action was taken to clean up the ships, and only a few of the decaying ships were removed, despite clear congressional direction. But today’s announcement is a significant step forward. In just one year, the Obama Administration has restarted a stalled process, and crafted a plan that will lead to the removal of the worst ships."
I want to thank Maritime Administrator David Matsuda for partnering with the State of California and others to move this project forward. I know coordinating a project of this scale hasn't been easy, and I appreciate his commitment to the many stakeholders and to protecting our environment.
The logistics of transporting a fleet this size to a facility where they can be recycled are complicated, and it will take about two years to get the next 20 ships out of the bay.
You see, before the ships--some of which have been mothballed for generations--are even removed, they have to be made environmentally safe to travel. So, first, we tow them safely to a nearby San Francisco shipyard for some drydock time where they'll be cleaned of any toxic substances and marine growth.
Then, the cleaned vessels are towed down the Pacific coast and through the Panama Canal to Brownsville, Texas, for dismantling and recycling.
Meanwhile, we also have to make sure the ships in the bay are cleaned up and inspected regularly.It may take a while, but every ship we remove improves the environmental condition of Suisun Bay and the quality of life for the surrounding community.