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Sunken Towboat Leaves the QC

Two weeks after a towboat hit something in the Mississippi River at LeClaire, and sank, it's now headed downriver for repairs. This afternoon, towing began of the Stephen L. Colby 350 miles to a facility near Saint Louis.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Colin Fogarty says it's difficult to estimate how long it'll take - due to weather and the many locks along the route.

"The Coast Guard is working very closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to give priority to this vessel transitting down the river. And we're also working with the National Weather Service to predict ice flows and current conditions down the river."

When the towboat sank on November 25th, it was carrying 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel and "lube oil." Fogarty says workers from several state and federal agencies were able to recover most of it, but some environmental damage could not be avoided.

"Given the winter conditions in Iowa and the low water levels, it's very difficult to clean a lot of the soil, riverbed, and rocks that were affected by the oil spill. The Coast Guard, along with Marquette, the responsible party (owner of the Colby), are going to return in the spring to conduct a shoreline cleanup assessment and to clean up the riprap, rocks, and riverbed."

He says their goal is to restore the river at LeClaire to as close to its previous condition as possible. Agencies involved in the cleanup included the Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US EPA, and the Illinois and Iowa DNR's.

(photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard)