A dozen abandoned boats are pulled from the Withlacoochee River

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YANKEETOWN, Fla. (WCJB) – “I wanted them to be recognized for all their hard work.”

Levy County commissioners say their staff deserved credit for finding the boats for the derelict ship removal program.

District 1 Commissioner John Meeks says he is disappointed after the county’s initial proposal to remove the boats was twice denied by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation due to a lack of funding.

“All of my staff did all the work, and then they went out and found other contractors,” Meeks said.

Meeks says the cost of the county’s boat retirement program was the same as what FWC paid.

In a statement to TV20, FWC officials said they initially rejected Levy County’s proposal due to the depletion of funds for the exercise.

The marina staff shared the importance of removing these boats as they cause great damage to the waters behind me and to the environment.

“It pollutes the water, I mean they have oil and gas and diesel I guess,” said staff member Ashley Nicholson. “And that’s like the biggest problem with that.”

According to FWC, the cost of the boat retirement program is approximately $268,000.

A boat moving company called Sea Tow pulled out four boats in about two and a half days. They aim to recover the rest soon.

“We’d like to lift them in one piece, get them out,” said company owner Sammy Royal. “Unfortunately they sat there for so long and they were so rotten that we tried to pick them up and they fell apart a bit.”

Workers carefully remove boats and are mindful of the marina and wildlife.

“At the end of the day, it’s wonderful that these derelict ships are being removed from our waterways,” John Meeks said. “They are a nuisance to navigation, an eye sore and they are an environmental hazard.”

Sea Tow will be removing abandoned boats in Cedar Key, Waccasassa and Suwannee over the coming week.

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Earnest A. Martinez