9OYS Special Report: Solving the abandoned boat problem


BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — They look harmless.

“I understand everyone needs a place to anchor and have a permanent mooring, but it’s impacting my business,” said Andrew Law, manager at TD Eure Marine Construction.

A few small boats bob up and down in the water.

“Our concern is there in front of our loading area,” said Law.

To Law and his co-workers, these abandoned boats are a big deal.

We asked Law what kind of effect the boats had on his ability to do his job.

“It’s difficult. We lease this property for the sole purpose of being able to get our barges and equipment in and out of here all the time. We’re limited as to when we can come in and out by which way the wind is blowing because of the direction the sailboats are facing,” said Law.

The boats lack registration tags.

Without the tags, there’s no way to reach their owner.

“They showed up. We thought it was short term docking just for the storm, and this one sank in the storm, but the others have just stayed,” said Law.

Officially, those boats are referred to as ADV’s, or abandoned and derelict vessels.

“ADV’s have been an issue that North Carolina has needed to handle for a very long time, but since it’s such a complex issue and there isn’t much legal authority to address the issue,” said Paula Gillikin, the Central Sites Manager for the NC Coastal Reserve.

Owners just leave their boats.

“One main reason is that people can’t afford to maintain their vessel,” said Gillikin.

The problem gets even worse after a big storm.

According to the Wildlife Resource Commission, less than 100 boats that were abandoned after Hurricane Florence still remain.

“The habitat damage and water quality issues that are associated with abandoned and derelict vessels, and also the visitor experience and detraction from beautiful aesthetics is also an issue,” said Gillikin.

Hazardous material like fuel, oil, batteries, fire extinguishers, or flares remain on these boats and can threaten the wildlife around them.

After Hurricane Florence, Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton knew his town had to do something.

“Probably a dozen boats were up on the reserve. What you don’t want to do is all of a sudden pull that vessel directly off and it destroys the marsh that’s in between it and the waterway,” said Newton.

Town leaders passed an ordinance to battle abandoned boats.

“It essentially just says that it’s not okay for you just to leave your boat in the town waterway, and just leave it there to the discretion of the taxpayer to have to deal with,” said Newton.

Without an ordinance, taking care of these ADV’s is like a game of hot potato between state and local agencies.

State Representative Bobby Hanig of District 6 sponsored a measure last year to give the Town of Manteo and Hyde County more control over their waterways, making it easier to get rid of ADV’s.

“The ability for localities to manage their waterways is very important, especially in a busy waterway like Shallowbag Bay. It’s part of the intercoastal, there’s a lot of traffic there all the time, ” said Hanig.

Currently, there’s no formal state program or funding to help towns deal with the issue.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is the lead group in handling this issue.

They’re currently waiting on one million dollars worth of funding to try and troubleshoot the state’s ADV problem, but that money is tied up in the ongoing budget battle.

“It is a team effort, so we can work in Beaufort, but we’re impacted by the surrounding areas so we want to help get help from the county and our adjacent municipalities as well to be able to help this problem, ” said Newton.

Mayor Newton said getting the ADV issue solved is just the beginning of their marine debris problem.

“Dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels is probably the easiest of these problems to deal with, and let me caveat that with it’s not easy,” said Newton.

The changes can’t come soon enough for business owners like Law.

“I hope that we can figure out how to contact the owners, and they can be moved and find a place where they can anchor up in the safe harbor,” said Law.

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