New initiative to pull abandoned boats from the New River

The $375,000 project has been over 20 years in the making.
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:40 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The city of Jacksonville approved new funds to remove abandoned boats from the New River.

During a city council meeting last week, the city approved a $375,000 forgivable loan for a program to tag and remove abandoned and derelict boats from the New River if owners don’t respond to requests to do it themselves.

“Our concern here is that these boats would break free during a storm event and could make its way to a bridge or another piece of property and potentially damage that property,” said Maddie McCann, a water quality technician with the city of Jacksonville.

The loan for the project came from the city’s federal community development fund. The funding is for the next 20 years, with the option to forgive it if the project is successful and the money is well-spent.

“Addressing the abandoned and derelict vessels is just the next natural step in what has been decades of work by the city,” said Aaron Horan, another technician working on the project.

The team has the funding to follow through on the project they said has been over 20 years in the making, starting with the Wilson Bay Project back in 1997.

“It’s obvious no one is maintaining them and neglecting them,” said Horan. “There’s actually been plants growing in the seats and stuff like that.”

According to the environmental team out of Sturgeon City, nearly 20 abandoned boats are in the New River. Many of them suffered damage during Hurricane Florence or a previous storm. Some of the boats have been sitting for over five years.

Before this project, there was legally no way to remove the boats from the public waterways. For boats abandoned or not meeting specific codes or criteria of operation and left in private property, the cost was too much for private owners, according to the team.

“Of all the people that see these vessels, we are the ones who track it from week to week,” said McCann. “As soon as we wanted to start this project, we started lists of a vessel that has shown up here, or it’s moved here.”

According to the law, once a boat has been tagged, the owner has ten days to respond and another ten days to remove it before the city seizes it for environmental and safety concerns.

“It also is concerning to us that during the next hurricane, it could break free of its mooring,” said Mccann.

“Over time, they’re going to break down, they’re going to degrade just being left in this brackish estuary environment, it’s slowly going to eat away at it,” said Horan.

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