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Tugboat Sinks in San Joaquin County and Leaks oil into Delta Waterway

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – On Aug. 4, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and U.S. Coast Guard crews responded to a sunken tugboat in the Little Potato Slough in San Joaquin County. Cleanup and salvage plans are being developed, and no wildlife impacts have been observed as of now. 


According to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, the submerged boat is in the Empire Tract area, near Herman and Helen’s. 


“Some of these larger vessels, these tugboats, they’re older, so a leak like this. It’s not an if but when this can happen,” said Heather Brent with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office in a statement.


The sheriff’s office credits the event to be an accident. Brent continued to say that the event “definitely wasn’t something that was intentional” and that a leak is always possible with older vessels.


The event, however, ignites the question: Is this boat part of a concerning trend of other vessels being abandoned in the Delta? 


The Department of Fish and Wildlife answered no. 

“This was an old tugboat, a historic tug boat that was being restored, and something happened where it took on water and ended up underwater,” said Eric Laughlin with Fish & Wildlife in a statement.


The Boating Safety Unit of the Sheriff’s Office was at the scene, coordinating efforts to contain the spill, they say. Outside agencies, including Environmental Health, Office of Emergency Services, Fish & Wildlife, Woodbridge Fire Department, and the U.S. Coast Guard Pollution Response Team, were on the scene to respond. Boaters are urged to avoid the area, and those already in the area are encouraged to use caution. 


No timetable has been released for when the boat will be removed from the water.

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One thought on “Tugboat Sinks in San Joaquin County and Leaks oil into Delta Waterway

  • Kevin

    I was up in Delta worked with the wild wild west on boats boys, I believe someone is withholding a little bit of the truth. That tugboat sank a few years back. It might even have been never resurfaced. Just found out . Oh yeah I was with Peter pelkover at the time. State lands commission



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