One of the many draws of a visit to the Westport Marina is wandering the docks to admire the boats gently bobbing at moorage. While the sleek and shiny charter craft on even-numbered floats are enjoyable, diehard working boat lovers are often drawn to the commercial end of the marina where the commercial fishing fleet makes its home.
Many are particularly charmed by the old, classic and often battle-scarred fishing vessels that haven’t left the dock for years, but, by their very lines and obvious battle scars, conjure up thoughts of mighty adventures on rough seas to bring home the catch that feeds a nation.
While these abandoned workhorses represent visual evidence of our rich coastal maritime history, they sadly also present a very real hazard to the marine environment in which they once thrived. Many of these vessels are no longer watertight, often leaking fuel and oil into the water, with the real potential of becoming an exponentially greater hazard should they sink at moorage.
At least once a year, and in many years more, the Port of Grays Harbor is forced to take action to prevent marine waters contamination by removing derelict vessels that have been abandoned by owners who no longer are taking responsibility for them.
Such was the case recently for the FV Centennial, FV Crosswinds and FV Great Northern V, three vessels that were pulled ashore at the public boat launch last week and deconstructed, with their remains hauled away.
After Port of Grays Harbor Westport Marina Manager Robin Leraas completed the months-long legal process of declaring the vessels as derelict and eligible for deconstruction, the state Department of Natural Resources contracted with Ballard Salvage, Inc. to remove the vessels.
The salvage company sub-contracted with Quigg Bros. Inc. of Aberdeen to assist with the work, with Jake Sorenson of Central Park at the controls at various times of both a small and a large track hoe used to pull the boats from the water and then tear them apart. Additional logistical and physical assistance came from Westport Marina Operations Manager Ken Rausch, who was onsite working throughout the process.
Over a five-day period, the combined crew in turn pulled, pushed, prodded and then pummeled each boat into submission with the remains loaded into Dumpsters for disposal.
The project was not without major challenges, however. While the Crosswinds succumbed to its final demise with relative ease on Monday morning, the Centennial and Great Northern V each presented unique problems. Steel stabilizing batwings attached to the keel of the Centennial made her reluctant to come out of the water. Sorenson was forced to lighten the load by crunching the bow and much of the boat’s superstructure at the base of the boat launch before the rest of the vessel could be dragged fully ashore to face final demolition.
The FV Great Northern V had tons of poured ballast concrete covering its keel, making its overall weight a major problem. Again, Sorenson had to remove much of the upper portion of the vessel to lighten the load enough to get it up on level ground to complete deconstruction.
Through a special program, the State of Washington will cover 90 percent of the cost of last week’s demolition work, with the Port responsible for the other 10 percent, which can be covered through the Port providing in-kind services.
Derelict Vessel Removal Program
Removal of the derelicts is made financially possible through the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Derelict Vessel Removal Program.
The program account may be used to reimburse Authorized Public Entities for up to 90 percent of the costs associated with removing and disposing of abandoned or derelict vessels when the owner of the vessel is unknown or unable to pay. The entity may contribute its 10 percent of removal costs through in-kind services.
In 2001, the Legislature authorized the use of funds in the state toxics account for a grant program for local governments to clean up and dispose of hazardous substances on abandoned and derelict vessels. Grants for this type of work are administered by the state Department of Ecology.
The 2002 State Legislature went a step further by passing the Derelict Vessel Act, which provides certain local and state agencies with the authority and funding for the removal and disposal of derelict and abandoned vessels from the waters of the state.
It also directed DNR to establish the program to manage funding and provide expertise and assistance for the process to public entities like cities, counties, ports and state agencies.
The program gives funding priority to removing and disposing vessels that are in danger of breaking up, sinking, or presenting a threat to human health and safety, the environment or navigation.
Since 2003, the program has removed more than 500 such vessels.
The total budget for the Derelict Vessel Removal Program for the 2013-15 biennium is $7.26 million. Boat registration fees contribute $1.77 million to the Derelict Vessel Removal Account. The Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, which gets its revenue from state-owned aquatic leases, contributes $600,000. One-time legislative funding in 2013 contributed $4.89 million, with $4.5 million of that in new money and the remainder carried forward from the 2012 Jobs Now Act.
More funding and regs added
On April 2, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that increases funding for the Derelict Vessel Removal Program by adding fees for commercial vessels and also beefs up insurance and vessel owner accountability.
Key elements of new legislation include:
•Establishes an annual ‘derelict vessel removal fee’ of $1 per foot on commercial vessels required to be listed with the Department of Revenue. Revenue from this fee will go into the Derelict Vessel Removal Account.
•Requires moorage facilities and owners of vessels moored at these facilities to carry marine insurance.
•Requires insurance at the time of sale for vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
•Prohibits the sale of unseaworthy vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
•Exempts vessel deconstruction activities from the retail sales and use tax.
•Creates new penalties for failing to register a vessel.