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Plans to remove sunken fishing boat off the coast of San Juan Island delayed

The boat sank to around a depth of 200 feet, complicating plans to get it out of the water. The boat is releasing small amounts of diesel.

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. — Plans to remove a sunken 49-foot fishing vessel carrying about 2,600 gallons of fuel and oil off the coast of San Juan Island have been delayed, according to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

The vessel was carrying five people on board when it began to sink near Sunset Point on Saturday, Aug. 13. The passengers onboard the Aleutian Isle were saved by a good Samaritan. 

The vessel had about 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel and a combined 100 gallons of hydraulic fluid and lubricant oil aboard, according to the Coast Guard. The Aleutian Isle is still releasing small amounts of diesel, the Coast Guard said in a release. 

USCG was hoping to remove the vessel on Tuesday, but plans were delayed after crews discovered the boat sank an additional 100 feet from where it initially came to a rest, putting it at a depth of around 210 feet. 

"The difference between diving at 100 feet and 200 feet is different in nature,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer, Michael Clark. “I know that some of our initial dives as divers went down to about 40 feet and 50 feet, they experienced some extremely strong currents."

Approximately 2,600 of the 4,000-gallon capacity of fuel and oil is estimated to have been on the boat according to the USCG, which has allocated $130,000 for salvage cleanup. Divers are still working on removing the fuel from the vessel.

Due to it being close to international waters with Canada, the USCG said it is working with Canadian partner agencies to assess the cleanup.

Commercial divers and salvage teams arrived Saturday evening to work on removing potential pollutants from the sunken boat and find potential salvage from the wreckage.

Clark said crews are also in the process of removing an 1,800-foot fishing net that was detached from the vessel. 

Clark said despite the challenges they've encountered, he's hopeful they'll have things resolved within the next week or two. 

Possibilities for the boat include leaving it as an artificial reef, removing the whole vessel at once, or removing the boat out of the water piece by piece.

Authorities said some Southern Resident Killer Whales were near the southern tip of San Juan Island at the time of the incident, but none of the orcas were observed in the immediate proximity of the affected area. 

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This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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