Why float when you can fly? The Salvation heavy-lifting barge swings the 81-foot Powhatan out of the sea. The decommissioned tug had settled in approximately 180 feet below the surface. (Samson Tug & Barge photo)

There will be one last voyage for the Powhatan.

The 81-foot tugboat sank at its dock in Sitka’s Starrigavan Bay in April. This week (6-12-17) salvage crews raised the Powhatan and placed it aboard a barge for a ride south to a Seattle scrap yard.

The wreck removal barge Salvation provided the lifting power with a heavy crane. At least three other tugs, and a specialized oil skimming vessel stood by.

Samson Tug & Barge, the Powhatan’s owner, contracted with Alaska Commercial Divers and Pacific Pile & Marine to raise and dispose of the tug.

Once aboard the KP-2 barge, any residual oil leaking would be trapped by secondary containment on deck. (Samson Tug & Barge photo)

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, very little fuel or oil escaped the Powhatan during the raising. Divers back in April plugged the tug’s fuel vents shortly after it sank. Residual oil was contained by an extensive boom around the wreck, along with sorbent material. The state monitored the amount of oil released during the operation by aerial drone, and also conducted a shoreline assessment. The survey turned up some residual oil on the boat launch breakwater, which should dissipate naturally.

Observers on the water also kept a lookout for marine mammals.

The overall amount of oil and fuel released by the Powhatan is unknown. The tug had been out of service for ten years before it sank. The oil spill response vessel Neka Bay skimmed over 6,000 gallons of combined seawater and oil from the vicinity.

Nearby Starrigavan Beach, a popular subsistence clamming area, escaped contamination by oil, although there is an unrelated advisory about paralytic shellfish poisoning — or PSP — in effect for harvests there.

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