UPDATE: Coast Guard overseeing clean up and removal of sunken sternwheelers near Belpre

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BELPRE, Oh. (WTAP) - UPDATE: 5/18/2018

The U.S. Coast Guard says it's overseeing the clean up and removal of the partially-sunken Blennerhassett and Centennial sternwheelers in the Ohio River near Belpre.

The sternwheelers were damaged and partially-sunken by icy river conditions in January,2018, at mile marker 185 in the Ohio River near Belpre.

Dave Ruble and his family operated the sternwheelers for years, taking visitors to Blennerhassett Island from May to October each year.

But, several years ago, the island's management contracted with another company for those services.

The sternwheelers have made private trips to the island, and have been a regular sight at the annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta.

The Coast Guard says the vessels had no fuel in them when they sank. However, recently there have been reports of an oil sheen on the water in the area around where the boats remain partially submerged in Belpre.

The owner of both sternwheelers, Dave Ruble, has told the Coast Guard he plans to refloat and remove the vessels from their current location, but recent heavy rains and high water have prevented that.

The Coast Guard says it will continue to monitor the responsible party's pollution mitigation efforts and work closely with state and local authorities to ensure that actions are consistent with the
National Contingency Plan.


UPDATE: 5/9/2018

The U.S. Coast Guard reaffirmed that there is no pollution threat from the sunken sternwheelers on the Ohio River in Belpre.

The historic Centennial and the Blennerhassett sternwheelers sank back in January from heavy ice conditions on the Ohio River.

The Coast Guard says the vessels had no fuel in them when they sank. However, recently there have been reports of an oil sheen on the water in the area around where the boats remain partially submerged in Belpre.

Coast Guard chief warrant officer Chris Blank assures that there is no pollution threat, but this sight is more visible when higher waters lift the boats off the river's bottom.

"Right now what you're seeing, you're seeing some residual oil that is left over from when the boats were cleaned and pumped out," Blank said. "Before or prior to them sinking, so you have a little bit of residual oil in the fuel tanks as well as oil that's in the engines and the tanks and stuff like that's still onboard."

The owner has informed the Coast Guard that he plans to refloat and remove the vessels from their current location, but it is not clear yet when that will occur.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that it will continue to monitor the responsible party's pollution mitigation efforts and work closely with state and local authorities to ensure that actions are consistent with the
National Contingency Plan.


UPDATE: 1/16/2018

The U.S. Coast Guard says there's currently no pollution threat from a sunken sternwheeler on the Ohio River.

A Coast Guard spokesman Tuesday said it was notified over the weekend of the sinking of the Blennerhassett and Centennial sternwheelers on the Belpre side of the river.

The Coast Guard says no fuel was reported present on the vessel, which is believed to have taken on water during last week's heavy rains.

It was told the owner, Dave Ruble, is working to salvage the boat, which has been docked there for several years.

With the boat being a private craft, the Coast Guard says any further involvement it would have with the incident, is if the boat begins leaking oil.


ORIGINAL STORY: 1/15/2018

Historic sternwheelers are believed damaged, perhaps as a result of last week's heavy rains and high water.

After being contacted by several people, by phone and social media, we shot video Monday of the Rubles' Sternwheelers, the Centennial and the Blennerhassett, where they're docked along the Ohio River in Belpre.

The pictures show the boats partially under water, and appearing to be tilted, or "listing" to one side.

We contacted owner Dave Ruble, but he had no comment on the situation.

The Rubles for years were the main sternwheel operators taking visitors to Blennerhassett Island from May to October each year.

But the island's management several years ago contracted with another company for those services.

The sternwheelers have made private trips to the island, and have been a regular sight at the annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta.