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Sunken home pulled from Delta

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 10:00 pm

THE DELTA - A hazard of living near the river is the occasional flood. But what if you live on the river?

You could face an entirely different hazard; namely, sinking.

In March 2007, residents of Bruno's Island Yacht Harbor on Brannan Island Road along Jackson Slough found out first-hand when a neighbor's floating home sprang a leak.

According to Sarah Fitzer, the manager of the resort park, there was probably a hole where the home's plumbing exited the house. Fitzer speculated Wednesday that a pipe was improperly sealed, and water began to pour in.

"The house went down in about an hour," she said.

This wasn't just some Delta fishing shack, but a two-story, five-bedroom 3,000 square-foot home that Fitzer and neighbors Michael and Shirley Wrightsman described as absolutely gorgeous.

"I used to float by on the river and just stare at it," Michael Wrightsman said. "It had these great big windows that faced Mt. Diablo."

The owner of the house has since moved out of the area and could not be reached for comment.

After an almost year-long battle with the insurance company, a check was cut and the salvage began.

Enter Rick Bishop, owner of Bishop Diving and Salvage based out of Tracy.

Bishop, who has been a salvage contractor since 2002 and a diver for 21 years, makes a business out of pulling wreckage from the river.

"I remove over 100 boats from the Delta in a year," Bishop said. Not all of them are wrecked, but the majority are sunk.

Floating debris remains after a five-bedroom home on Jackson Slough in the Delta sank into the river in March 2007. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

Bishop said vessels are raised with a crane and some can be lifted with inflatable airbags.

In the case of a house, though, it's an entirely different operation. The type of house that sank was built on a special floating concrete foundation. The rubble of the house sat on top of the concrete, which had to be broken up in order to be pulled from under 20 feet of water. Bishop's subcontractor, The Dutra Group, performed the salvage.

The estimated cost of the operation, according to one number Michael Wrightsman heard, was $45,000. However, Bishop declined to say what the final cost would be, since the work wasn't finished. He did say that the hourly cost for the cleanup was $900.

That cost doesn't include transporting the rubble back to Rio Vista, unloading it, loading it onto trucks and shipping it to a county transfer station. Nor did it include the cost to move the garbage scow and crane barge into place.

Bishop is able to recoup some of his costs by recycling concrete and other materials when possible. Otherwise most of it is just disposed of.

"One time, we removed a 110-ton boat, floated it, took it in, cut it up and recycled the steel," Bishop said.

Yet in the case of the sunken house, the entire thing would be tossed.

"There's too much rebar in the concrete," Bishop said. "You can't do anything with that."

Contact Marc Lutz at marcl@lodinews.com.

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