ALAMEDA -- When Deborah Finney sits in the backyard of her Alameda waterfront home, she usually likes what she sees: the tranquil waters of the San Leandro Bay, and the iconic Oracle Arena and Oakland hills on the other side of the water.
But for months now she has been looking at two abandoned and rusting vessels floating in the water several hundred yards from her Eastshore Drive home. A sailboat and a barge were dumped a few weeks ago, bringing the total number of abandoned watercraft to four.
Finney has called the Alameda Police Department, city of Alameda officials and the Coast Guard, but there the vessels sit, rocking as the tides change and filling up with garbage and old tires, likely dumped under the dark of night. She has been trying to cut through the bureaucratic red tape to get the problem taken care of, but no one seems to want to take responsibility for removing the abandoned vessels.
"It's an eyesore, and it's filling up with garbage," said Finney, who has lived in the waterfront home for 12 years. "There is a floating dock that is sitting out there. We had a nice high tide (recently), and I bet you that it moved 400 feet. If we get a high tide and a storm, all that stuff is going to fall off into the water."
Finney's problems started about six months ago when two old rusty vessels showed up in the San Leandro Bay near her home. "We first thought they were going to dredge, but nothing," she said. About six weeks ago, a sailboat arrived and then two weeks ago a floating dock covered with tires and garbage was left by three men, she said.
Chris and Darnelle Zimmerman have lived near Finney for the past decade and have never seen so many vessels left for such a long period of time.
"We do have squatters who come for a week or so and stay on a boat but then they take off. Sometimes people leave (boats) there temporarily but now they seem to be piling up,'' said Chris Zimmerman. "Our biggest concern is what's going to happen when the weather turns. They are big and they will do property damage."
Zimmerman said he, too, has called the Coast Guard.
"They say they are going to check into it."
Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela Manns, said that "if it's not a hazard to navigation or an environmental hazard the Coast Guard doesn't get involved." She said she was not aware of garbage and tires on any vessels, but when alerted she sent the case to the incident management division. Further calls for comment were not returned.
Alameda police Lt. Sean Lynch said two officers took a report in early October and the case has been assigned to a department boat officer.
"We have had pretty good luck of getting that type of junk out of there," he said.
However, Lynch said the vessels may not be something that the city has jurisdiction or control over. Police, he said, will work with other agencies to try and get rid of the vessels.
Last month,¿ Save the Bay's 5th Annual Bay Trash Hot Spots list included 225 creeks and shoreline areas where cities identified toxic levels of plastic bags, cigarette butts, fast food containers, old tires and other garbage. Trash is a dangerous pollutant that harms wildlife, spoils water quality, threatens public health, and smothers sensitive wetland habitat, Save the Bay officials said.
What's more, water quality regulators last year issued new stormwater regulations to encourage low-impact development and require public education about pesticides and more aggressive control of runoff from construction sites. They also require cities and counties to cut the amount of trash getting into creeks and shorelines -- which run into the Bay -- by 40 percent by 2014.
Adrienne Klein, chief of enforcement with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, said a complaint regarding the vessels was received by her office in September and BCDC has also been in touch with the Coast Guard.
"We don't have the actual power to remove (vessels), we are regulatory and planning, we just don't have that authority," Klein said. "We can give money to cause abatement, but we can't do it ourselves."