Charges filed against man who abandoned boat in the Columbia

Charges filed against man who abandoned boat in the Columbia
BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- A simple sunken boat was not so simple after all.

It's resulted in criminal charges for the man accused of abandoning it near Finley. The state's Attorney General came to town today to announce the filing and explain how serious a crime like this can be.

It took more than two weeks to pull a salmon trawler out of the Columbia last summer. It sunk near Finley as the owner was trying to bring the boat to Hermiston.

EPA crews worked frantically to contain almost 200 gallons of fuel. 50 gallons managed to seep into the river.

Pulling the 40-foot vessel out was no easy task. And once it was safely back on land, most considered the matter closed.

But not the state.

"The bottom line from my standpoint is making sure my office is protecting taxpayers, because there's a tremendous cost to removing these vessels and protecting our environment," says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Ferguson held a quiet news conference to level charges against the boat's owner.

Brandon Traner is accused of abandoning the rig. If convicted, he faces jail time and could be forced to pay back the $100,000 cost to clean up.

"There's a lot at stake for people who are accused of this crime," Assistant Attorney General Joshua Choate says.

Before it sank, the boat was moored at Columbia Marine Center. Owner Jim Toroni says Traner was evicted for refusing to get required insurance, despite promising he would.

"Seven months was plenty of time for him," says Toroni.
KEPR: "Did you ever question the seaworthiness of the boat?
Toroni: "It was an old wood boat, you know, so yes, there were some concerns."

Now Traner becomes one of three people pursued criminally by the state for abandoning boats.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says these are environmental crimes:

"That's not something we've been doing for the last decade, and that's something I want to see us bring back in an appropriate fashion."

And that fashion now includes recouping the costs for the mess in Finley.

We tried to contact the boat's owner but couldn't reach him.

Total cleanup for the three boat owners being pursued by the state is costing in the millions.

There are more than 150 derelict boats across the state on a watch list.