$3 million proposed in Virginia budget amendment to remove derelict boats from waterways

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Since November 10, On Your Side has been rreport on the efforts of Virginia Beach resident Mike Provostwho by his Foundation for Disposal and Reuse of Vessels and the help of a GoFundMe page, managed to remove five abandoned boats from the Virginia Beach waterways.

Provost made a point of reminding everyone that this was done without federal, state or local money.

10 On your side asks these questions: Who do we ultimately hold accountable, and are our elected leaders doing something about it?

WAVY contacted Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), who is one of the most powerful leaders in the General Assembly. We asked him if the General Assembly was doing anything about the problem.

“They are an eyesore. They are a navigational hazard and an environmental concern,” Knight said.

So who takes responsibility for pulling these abandoned ships out of the water?

“Right now it’s nobody,” Knight said.

Nobody. And that really bothers businessman Andy Sutter of the Freedom Boat Club at the Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth,

“I have a yacht club — somebody pays me $5,000 to join the yacht club and we can watch those bulls —” he said.

Sutter talks about Fantasy London, a poster for derelict ships sitting in the Elizabeth River.

Sutter heard that the ship was beginning to take on water. The owner then abandoned the Fantasy to become the nightmare of the community.

“It annoys me. It’s an eyesore. We don’t need it here in Portsmouth or Norfolk. We have this great area here, and we have this abandoned boat, and nobody is doing anything about it. It has said.

This is confirmed by Knight’s statement that no one is responsible for abandoned ships.

It’s not just Fantasy London. How about the burnt and sunken remains of a boat that caught fire on December 19, 2020?

The owner of this boat is known as Mike and has attached his Sandpiper to the rusty wreck. 10 On Your Side floated alongside.

“It’s the old boat here. You see it here, it just burned at high tide, so now at low tide we see it and it’s right here,” Sutter said.

Going to the following site, you can see the cast hull.

“My understanding is that the boat sank, they raised it, pumped out all the environmental hazards, then sank it again,” Sutter added.

The 10 On Your Side tour of Elizabeth River Cemetery took us to the Alyssa of Chesapeake, which is actually anchored and floating.

We boarded to have a look. We were curious to know what was in Alyssa’s cabin. The windows are all broken. We found a foot of water inside, along with personal effects and nautical items.

It should be noted that it is illegal to abandon a ship in a watercourse.

The Virginia Marina Resources Commission has primary enforcement responsibility.

10 On Your Side wanted to know why the VMRC is not towing the Alyssa. We received this statement from Matthew Rogers, who is the Chief Enforcement Officer of VMRC.

“VMRC and Virginia Marine Police do not have the capacity, resources or storage locations to tow vessels safely. Any abandoned vessel that is reported to VMRC is investigated, as it is in this case, to determine the owner and appropriate legal action. The Virginia Marine Police remain in an investigative role and do not tow, remove or dispose of derelict vessels.

Matthew Rogers, VMRC Chief Enforcement Officer

Responses like that infuriate some residents of the Swimming Point neighborhood in downtown Portsmouth, who have complained to the US Coast Guard, VMRC and Virginia Marine Police. Some say no one will accept responsibility for removing the ships.

“My message is that someone takes responsibility for getting the boats removed,” said Douglas Union, a resident.

This brings us back to Del. Knight, who takes the lead in committing $3 million from the state budget to “removing derelict boats from Virginia’s waterways.”

“It’s not a done deal, but I think we’ll fund it,” Knight said.

During our conversation, Knight began to think outside the box to increase Virginia state boat registration fees.

“We could include it in the boat registration fee,” he said.

It’s $25 to add to the $3 million.

“That’s right. It’s something we should be looking at. We should be looking at that,” Knight said with a laugh, adding, “It just shows you that you can get ideas from anybody.

The Coast Guard sent this full statement to WAVY:

“The issue of derelict and derelict ships is complex, and it is a problem in many communities across the country. ADVs can pose a threat to the safety of navigation or the marine environment and often impose an excessive financial burden on organizations that must deploy limited resources to respond.

“Under the laws of Virginia it is unlawful for an owner to permit a ship to be in a state of dereliction and in danger of sinking or such disrepair as to constitute a danger or obstruction to the use of a waterway. The state is the best agency to talk about their derelict vessel removal laws or process.

“The Coast Guard appreciates the public concern. It is also a concern of the Coast Guard. We strive to identify owners, coordinate with the State, and encourage prompt rescue and recovery to minimize risk to the maritime community. No one wants to see them languish.

“The statutory role of the Coast Guard is the protection of the marine environment. We have a responsibility to identify and mitigate navigational hazards and to respond to and, in some cases, eliminate significant pollution threats. In this context, we are talking specifically about petroleum and hazardous substances. As for the two ships you inquired about, the Alyssa and the Fantasy London, neither ship presented a hazard to navigation. In addition, the threat of pollution has either been reduced or eliminated.

“Additionally, while rescuing vessels is not a Coast Guard mission, any vessel removal plan or operation requires coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard Harbor Master and an agreed salvage plan. It may also require state permits. This may seem like a cumbersome process. However, these requirements ensure that any vessel removal does not make matters worse by creating a new hazard, actually obstructing a waterway, or worse, injuring people. people or other property. Well-meaning community members looking to expand local cleanup efforts should consider that this will require more than just moving a ship. Removing a ship is different. removal of small debris along a watercourse.

“The Virginia Abandoned and Derelict Vessels (VA-ADV) Task Force was created to address the issue and is co-facilitated by:

“o Clean Up Virginia Waterways at Longwood University (CVW)

“o Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program of the Virginia Department of Equality

“VA-ADV participation includes regional committee members from the state and local levels. The group’s priority is to create a statewide inventory in coastal waters and lakes and pilot initiatives to remove identified ADVs. The VA-ADV Working Group distributes flyers to Virginia marinas to publicize this statewide ADV inventory.

“The VA-ADV partnered with the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) at William and Mary Law School and recently published an article Abandoned and Derelict Vessels in the Commonwealth. The paper is a political analysis of local and state laws on current complexities.
http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/ADV.html

“More information is also available through the NOAA Marine Debris program.
https://marinedebris.noaa.gov/abandoned-and-derelict-vessels-info-hub/virginia

Sara Muir, SCPO, US Coast Guard Fifth District

Earnest A. Martinez