It's been months since the M/V Forus went to the bottom of the Columbia River near Finley,   now the owner is facing environmental charges and hefty fine.

Wednesday morning Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller announced Brandon Traner of Portland, OR could be fined up to $10,000 and could face up to 364 days in jail for abandoning a derelict vessel in the river.

According to officials, Traner was evicted from the Columbia Marine Center in Pasco in July of 2013.  He asked a friend to pilot the 41-foot former salmon fishing boat to the Hat Rock Marina in Oregon.  Lyle Aylett, who was piloting the boat, got as far as Finley, when it began taking on water rapidly.

Aylett was able to jump off and swim to shore, but the M/V Forus went to the bottom.  It sank in what officials said was the middle of the navigation channel in about 40 feet of water.  When contacted by state officials and the EPA, Traner said he had neither the resources or insurance to remove or salvage the vessel.

The vessel posed a threat to barge traffic and recreational boats because the masts were so close to the surface.   It also held several hundred gallons of diesel fuel and other oils, which had to be pumped out of it's tanks.   To prevent spills,  the Forus was "floated" to shallow water a few feet deep just off shore.  Due to the positioning of weights aboard the vessel that shifted during sinking and attempts to pull it up to the surface, it took the state over a month to get it out of the water.  The eventual cost of removal cleanup and salvage was over $100,000.

It was paid by state funds allocated to clean up and dispose of derelict ships around the state.  This is the first such prosecution of a derelict ship owner in Eastern Washington, two other vessels on the West Side have been salvaged and their owners prosecuted.  Traner is facing one count of abandoning a derelict vessel and one count of discharge of polluting matters into state waters.  A search of various shipping records was not able to trace back the history of the Forus,  how old she was, or how Traner came into possession of the vessel.

Ferguson and state officials are beginning to go after owners of derelict ships,  there are reportedly hundreds of abandoned vessels in various waterways around the state.

(Washington State Attorney Generals Office)