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Abandoned Boats In Florida Waters Causing Financial Concerns

abandoned boats in water.
Abandoned ships around Florida counties have been creating safety and financial concerns for boaters and lawmakers. CREDIT Curtis Franklin.

Abandoned boats in Florida waters have become a big financial issue for the state. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say it costs about $30,000 to $50,000 dollars to remove one boat. 

The Commission on Tuesday presented the results of a statewide study on cleaning up derelict vessels to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. The main question senators had was why the removal process usually takes so long.

"It's very expensive," answered Robert Rowe, the Commission’s Boating and Waterways Section Leader.

He said the majority of the estimated 350 abandoned boats discovered each day in the state have no insurance. That's why a county or a state end up paying the cleaning costs, which are not cheap. Even the most lowest-risk cleanups can cost anywhere from $5,000 to more than $10,000 dollars for one boat.

During active hurricane seasons, the numbers are even higher, Rowe said. According to the FWC, the removal and storage of 948 boats after Hurricane Irma in 2017 cost more than $52 million.

Precautions are already underway for the next hurricane cleanup, Rowe explained.

“The Wildlife Commission will collaborate with the Coast Guard to split the cleanup of leftover oil and the actual removal of the ship between the two,” he said. This move, he anticipates, will reduce overall costs.

The Commission offers financial grants for counties that need assistance for abandoned boats. For those counties that are in need of the Derelict Vessel grant program, the ‘first-come, first-served’ reimbursement grant opens up in June.

County governments have limits on how much they can request, he said.

Tristan Dodd is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2020. He is currently a senior at USF, where he is completing his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Production.
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