Department of Ecology News Release - February 10, 2022

Pair of sinkings, spill on Steamboat Slough lead to $70,000 fine for vessels’ owner

The Elusive Dream (left) and Shilo (right) on Aug. 20, 2020.


In 2020, a large vessel tipped over and pushed a smaller boat under water, then sank itself, releasing oil and gas into Steamboat Slough on the Snohomish River near Everett. Now, the Washington Department of Ecology is penalizing Ron Barber, the owner of both vessels, $70,000 for the spill.

The incident began on Aug. 16, 2020, when Ecology responded to reports of two sunken vessels along the bank of Steamboat Slough. The larger vessel, Elusive Dream, had rolled over during low tide, pushing down the smaller vessel, Shilo, and sinking it. Additional flooding through the Elusive Dream’s open decking eventually caused the vessel to sink as well. Barber and neighbors placed boom around the vessels to contain oil and fuel escaping from the sunken vessels.

After Barber was unsuccessful in refloating the Shilo with a bulldozer, Ecology hired  contractors to respond and control the spill. Over the course of response efforts, diesel continued to escape from the sunken vessel.  

The Elusive Dream was upright and floating again by Aug. 30. However, efforts to refloat the Shilo were unsuccessful. An estimated 214 gallons of diesel, and likely some lubricating oil, were spilled into the river.

Barber moored the two vessels at a dilapidated  dock on the slough, and the Elusive Dream regularly came to rest on the bank during low tide – both factors that contributed to the vessels’ eventual fate. The penalty is a result of diesel entering waters of the state and Barber’s negligence for continuing to moor his vessels at a location where a spill was forseeable. 

Barber was previously penalized $750 for a 50-gallon diesel spill at the same location in 2009.

The Steamboat Slough area is designated as a critical habitat for several federally listed species of wildlife. Even a small amount of diesel can cause impacts to the environment, and to birds, fish and other wildlife.

Barber has 30 days to appeal the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Contact information

Jasmin Adams
Communications Manager