by Rob Malcolm

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — PG&E is drowning in controversy over a long-buried gas line that floated to the surface near Mildred Island, damaging some boats.

Local boater Hal Whitlow ran over the pipeline on Sunday, causing damage to his 52-foot Bayliner.

“It’s down underneath and there’s two propellers down underneath and they’re big propellers,” said Whitlow.

Deputy Melissa Griffith with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department marine unit says the pipe is a significant hazard.

“It’s approximately a football field in length and it covers the entire south opening of Mildred Island,” Griffith said.

The pipeline was decommissioned in 1990 and anchored to the bottom of the Delta, but recent winds and weather caused it to float up. Whitlow found out the hard way.

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“I didn’t see the submerged part, but I was right on top of it, and as soon as I heard the thump I pulled the boat out of gear,” he said.

Deputy Griffith says Whitlow isn’t the only one to run into the hazard.

“We’ve had three reports in a two-day span,” she said.

There is now only one way in and one way out of Mildred Island as it is completely blocked at the south end. Cheryl Flebut of the Discovery Bay Yacht Club blames the utility and says they should pay for damages.

“It should be PG&E because it’s their pipe and they’ve known about it for years,” Flebut said.

Whitlow is looking at $10,000 to $20,000 in repairs and doesn’t feel the utility will step up.

“I tried to deal with PG&E for a power problem on a dock and they said ‘we don’t feel it’s our problem,’” said Whitlow.

PG&E told CBS13 they are working on a fix and issued a statement Monday:

“On Sunday afternoon, PG&E received notification that a decommissioned pipeline in the area of Mildred Island was floating exposed near the top of the water. The pipeline was decommissioned in the 1990s with the intent of leaving the pipe in place anchored to the bottom of the delta. Over time, conditions have changed and caused the pipe to migrate to the top of the water.

As of this afternoon, PG&E was installing buoys to warn boaters of the hazard as part of a short-term solution. We will continue to work with the Coast Guard regarding additional measures to make the area safe including additional signage. PG&E is evaluating a variety of long-term solutions to ensure the safety of boaters in the area.”

PG&E is evaluating a variety of long-term solutions to ensure the safety of boaters in the area.