Groups work to clear abandoned boats from North Carolina coast

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 4:32 PM EDT
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NEWPORT, N.C. (WITN) - Hurricane Ian was a reminder to Floridians and Carolinians of just how devastating a big storm can be.

While it was just over four years ago, Hurricane Florence is still fresh on the minds of many in Eastern Carolina. Pictures coming out of Florida this past week of boats tossed around canals, rivers, and marinas are not unlike what Eastern Carolinians saw in 2018.

Even though it’s years later, the clean-up of lost and broken-down boats continues.

If you’ve been on the water, chances are you’ve seen one at some point. And aside from possibly being an eyesore, these run-down vessels can actually pose a big threat to the environment and everyone who enjoys the water.

“Removing these vessels is very important, not just for the chemical hazard aspect, but that’s debris that’s being left out in the environment,” Sarah Bodin, coastal specialist says. “With every storm or major tidal event, that boat is just going to break up, so it’s important to get it out of the waterway. It’s a navigational hazard, and it doesn’t look great for people visiting the area who want to see a clean Crystal Coast.”

Last year, the North Carolina Coastal Federation began working to remove a large number of abandoned and run-downed boats along the coast.

“We received funding, fortunately from several different grant sources and from the state, so in 2021, we began our vessel removals and we’ve been just chugging away for a good year and a half,” Bodin says.

So far, the Coastal Federation, along with numerous partners including local sheriff’s departments, the Coast Guard, and a marine contractor, has removed about 100 boats.

“Doing a project in North Carolina where we can see the fruits of our labor by removing a bile pile of debris or a vessel that’s been sitting there for awhile, it’s kind of a point of pride for me personally and my crew really enjoys this work,” Richard Coley, Mainstream Commercial Divers business manager said.

Once a boat has been found, the team from Mainstream Commercial Divers goes out and begins the work to remove it.

“You’re solving a problem, you’re out there like ‘how do we get this one off?’ And everyone is different, you might use roller bags to get the vessel up out of the mud and marsh mats, so we can lay down the marsh grass so we don’t damage that and pull the vessel out,” Coley said.

While each boat that is pulled out of the water is different, officials say it can cost on average anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to remove most of the boats. However, some of the larger vessels like shrimp trawlers can cost more than $80,000 to remove.

The groups are hoping to pull out several more abandoned and run-down boats before the end of the year.

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