U.S. Coast Guard officials say they initially trusted the owner of a sunken houseboat to salvage the vessel now responsible for a diesel spill at Pillar Point but that they “federalized” the incident Thursday after fuel from the six-week-old wreck threatened the environment. Now taxpayers appear to be on the hook.

In a release issued Friday morning, the Coast Guard reports that clean-up of the hazardous material would be funded by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a federally maintained billion-dollar fund established to mitigate spill damage to navigable waters in the United States.

The Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Game were on the scene on Friday, discussing salvage and clean up. The source of the trouble is a 52-foot houseboat that sank just inside the outer breakwater at Pillar Point Harbor six weeks ago.

The Coast Guard reports that it knows of no wildlife that has been affected as yet. The Office of Health Hazard Assessment issued an advisory to anglers and shellfish harvesters, asking them to avoid fishing from the shoreline inside the breakwater to Pillar Point. They also advised to avoid fishing in areas where there is a visible sheen on the water, and that no one should consume fish or shellfish with an oily smell or feel.

One of the Coast Guard's approved pre-negotiated contractor's, Parker Diving and Salvage from Sausalito, Calif., has been brought in to assist in the removal, clean-up, and salvage of the vessel. Operations to raise the vessel will begin today.

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