JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A bill aiming to remove abandoned vessels from waterways in North Carolina has recently passed the NC Senate unanimously.
Now, SB 465 is currently in the NC House, where it’s one step closer to becoming law.
Abandoned boats are not only an eyesore in local coastal communities. They can also cause several problems for the environment as well. After Hurricane Florence, over 400 derelict vessels were found along the North Carolina coast.
“The vessels contain lots of hazardous materials ranging from batteries to fuel to oil to hydraulic fluid, to you know, if they have a toilet onboard to human waste. It’s a really hazardous situation if they sink or are left out in the environment,” said the Marine Debris Program Coordinator for the NC Coastal Federation, Ted Wilgis.
Local cities like Jacksonville began working hard to get rid of them over the past several years. They’ve addressed 32 so far by finding the owners or clearing the vessels out themselves.
“We would hook up [the boats], tow [them] down to the boat ramp down here where our Streets Department would be waiting with heavy equipment, they would pull it up onto land where they would crush it, put it in dump trucks and take it to the landfill,” said Aaron Houran, a water quality tech for the City of Jacksonville.
The Coastal Federation and several other agencies also helped in the effort to get the issue under control across the state.
“I think we’re at about 306 vessels removed,” Wilgis said. “So far, the Wildlife Resource Commission has used its state funding to remove about 160 vessels. And then the Coastal Federation in partnership with the state has removed 105 vessels, and local governments and other agencies have moved about another 40.”
Now, SB465 will help cities adopt ordinances to remove the vessels and prohibit abandonment in their jurisdiction.
“It gives local governments another tool, just because there’s so many different ways that vessel owners if they want to kind of get rid of their vessel, they can find the loopholes and some of the regulations and not be able to be closely monitored by local government,” said Wilgis.