COUPEVILLE, Wash. – After weeks at the bottom of Penn Cove near Coupeville, the burnt-out wreckage of a sunken fishing boat that was slowly leaking oil rose from the water at Whidbey Island.
The aging boat named Deep Sea caught fire and sank on May 12. It started leaking oil that prompted environmental concerns and shut down production of the area’s famous mussel grounds.
Two large cranes pulled the burnt-out wreckage of the Deep Sea from 50 feet below. And it wasn't an easy operation. The dive teams encountered machinery, hatch covers and other material that fell off the Deep Sea. It took divers a week to remove some of those objects, which had settled into the muddy bottom, to allow digging of passages for the chains used to lift the vessel.
"The divers are working in zero web visibility. They're fighting a tangled web of metal debris. It's been tough on them," said Dave Byers, Department of Ecology.
A 300-foot crane barge was used to right the vessel, which sat on its left side, and provided most of the lifting power in tandem with a 140-foot crane barge.
DOE thought the Deep Sea wouldn't surface until sometime Monday, but by midday Sunday, the boat slowly emerged from the water.
Crews will eventually take the boat back to Seattle and wrap cleanup efforts around the cove.
The Department of Ecology is still assessing the sea-worthiness of the boat and whether they need to bring in a barge or can tow it to Seattle.
As for the environmental damage, so far they believe they've been able to contain the oil spill. Approximately 3,100 gallons of diesel oil have been removed from the Deep Sea during underwater operations and 1,400 gallons more were recovered from the surface.
As for the local mussel farms, farm officials have done some testing and they said it appears the shellfish are still safe. They hope to reopen the farms soon.
Meanwhile, residents in the normally quiet area are anxious to see the wreckage cleaned up.
"We're really blessed to live here. That's why we're so upset about what's happened. We really treasure our little bit of paradise and this is a trauma to it," said resident Jenn Dohner.
KING 5's Amy Moreno and Liza Javier contributed to this report.