The Kalakala saga descends from oddity to absurdity

The owner of the Kalakala is suing Tacoma businessman Karl Anderson for causing him mental anguish? File that under “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Eight years ago, Anderson took pity on Steve Rodrigues, the owner of the 1935 art-deco ferry who had lost moorage first in Seattle and then in Neah Bay. Anderson offered Rodrigues space on a site he owned on Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, figuring that would give him time to put together a plan for saving the decrepit ferry.

But no plan ever emerged. The ferry just kept deteriorating to the point that it was in danger of breaking free of its moorings and damaging docks and other vessels, perhaps even blocking the much-used industrial waterway.

The Coast Guard declared the Kalakala a hazard to navigation in December, which opened the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get rid of it – if a reasonably inexpensive way could be found. So far no one has come up with a solution. The Corps has about $1 million available, but that’s not believed to be enough to safely dispose of the ferry.

In March, Anderson sued to evict Rodrigues. Now Rodrigues has returned the favor and sued Anderson and the state for more than $250 million. Rodrigues claims the defendants thwarted his plans to restore the ferry, causing him mental anguish.

And so, the Kalakala saga has officially evolved into a fiasco. We hesitate to say it, but we told you so.

Back in 2003, when the subject of moving the rusty Kalakala to Tacoma was broached, we wrote in dismay: “The decayed ferry, to be blunt, is an eyesore. Tacoma should be removing eyesores from the Foss, not importing new ones.”

As bad as the situation is on the Hylebos, it could have been worse. Rodrigues wanted to move the hulk to a more visible site on the Thea Foss Waterway, but fortunately nothing came of it.

We do feel sorry for Anderson, whose act of good will has created one headache after another. He recently spent “a lot” to install new steel pilings so the Kalakala would be more stable, and now he’s the subject of litigation by the person he tried to help.

We hope a judge quickly throws this “mental anguish” lawsuit out of court so that the focus can be on finding a final resting place for the Kalakala.