kalakala.jpg
The Kalakala's days are numbered. Last week's snow and ice storm may have delivered the iconic art-deco vessel a knockout punch. Then again, it's easier

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Did Last Week's Storm Deliver the Kalakala the Mercy-Killing It Deserves?

kalakala.jpg
The Kalakala's days are numbered. Last week's snow and ice storm may have delivered the iconic art-deco vessel a knockout punch. Then again, it's easier to kill Freddy Krueger than this rusting 276-foot-long, 85-year-old hulk, which, for the past seven years has been on life support, moored in Tacoma's Hylebos Waterway. But now U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has entered the picture, issuing an emergency request for a contractor to stabilize the badly wounded craft and tow it to a new location on Commencement Bay.

According to Three Sheets Northwest, the storm blew the Kalakala into an onshore barge and as the tide retreated, the ship got caught on the barge and began listing to port at about 30 degrees. The deck is less than a foot above water.

The Corps is calling it an environmental hazard, and the Hylebos Waterway is one of the nation's largest Superfund sites.

"The vessel is likely damaged and highly susceptible to further injury or deterioration with any sudden impact or severe movement," according to the Corps.

If the Corps has to step in and take charge of the ship, Three Sheets quotes Corps spokesman William Dowell, who explains:

"The Corps isn't in the job of towing this boat somewhere where they can fix it up. We're going to tow it somewhere and it's going to be dismantled. Once we get involved in the process, that's it. We can't stop the process."

The Corps action comes after frantic efforts were made by the historic ship's owner, Steve Rodrigues, to sell the Kalakala for a mere dollar -- this, after failing to raise $49.5 million to restore the vessel he purchased in 2003.

The Kalakala was used as a Seattle ferry. Beginning in 1935, it sailed the Bremerton route for more than 30 years. It was put on the auction block in 1967. Later, it became a fish processing ship before being grounded in 1972 as a cannery. In 1998, Seattle sculptor Peter Bevis bought the ship and brought it back to Seattle. He, too, was unable to restore it and by 2003, the Kalakala was moved out of Lake Union by Rodrigues, who took the boat to Neah Bay and then to Tacoma.

Rodrigues said last month on the ship's website that the Kalakala had been sold to an anonymous bidder for $1, but the Coast Guard believes Rodrigues is still the owner.

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