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Barge-scale cleanup in California waterways (photos)

A handful of oversize photos from a tour CNET took of a large-scale effort to pull polluting boats, barges, and buildings out of a San Francisco Bay Area delta.

A large-scale, collaborative effort to clear polluting boats, barges, and buildings out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is under way. But hauling these sometimes decades-old structures out of the rivers isn't easy. This week, CNET went along on one outing to see how it's done.

We've posted a handful of oversize photos from the tour in this blog. For more, see our photo gallery here.

Litter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
Hundreds of abandoned vessels of varying sizes and stages of decay litter the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta's 738,000 acres, with marine debris polluting the same waterways that provide drinking water to two-thirds of California with oil, hydraulic fuels, paints, and asbestos. James Martin/CNET
The Delta's waterways
The Delta's waterways are a maze of channels, and the law enforcement jurisdiction, rules, and regulations governing the area are often confusing or unclear, giving the Delta a sort of "Wild West" feel. The occupant of this RV, which is parked on a derelict fiberglass barge, has been moored along this marshy island for years. The occupant claims he owns the island, a contention being disputed by Sacramento County officials.
Antioch Bridge
CNET rode along with the Contra Costa Sheriff's Marine Patrol near the Antioch Bridge, seen here, to explore some of the debris at places like Fisherman's Cut near Bradford Island, where funding is helping to clean up the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. James Martin/CNET
Boats, barges and buildings of all sizes are being recovered from the Delta's waterways. This vessel, the Arabella, was partially sunken, and crews have managed to pump the water out of its haul in an attempt to move it closer to shore. A yellow spill containment buoy rings the work area to prevent further contamination. James Martin/CNET
Sacramento River Delta
In April 2009, the environmental group American Rivers declared the Sacramento River Delta the nation's most endangered waterway system. The Delta's environmental problems include pollution, declining fish populations, and aging levees. Here, remains of a fiberglass barge rest up against the soft shores of an island near the Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area. James Martin/CNET
Calfed, a federal-state program in charge of managing the Delta, is on the verge of financial insolvency, adding to the environmental problems and making it more difficult to secure funding for projects like this. James Martin/CNET
Heavy equipment used to dismantle the abandoned boats and collapsed piers was moved to the Delta's island on barges, where debris, like these old tires, is collected for hauling. James Martin/CNET