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Groups want to refloat derelict vessel program

Help is on the way for efforts to round up and dispose of derelict vessels before they sink. Several groups have pitched in with donations to resurrect a previously shelved Derelict Vessel Program in San Juan County, where there are approximately 19 abandoned vessels around the islands needing attention.

In spearheading this effort the Friday Harbor Power Squadron is joined by the Common Sense Alliance, Roche Harbor, San Juan Island Yacht Club, Island Marine Center on Lopez, and Jensen's Shipyard. These local groups (of private citizens and businesses) have united in a display of community spirit to raise the minimum funds necessary to assist the County in reviving the program that ceased operations in December 2008 due to lack of funding.


Boating is a treasured part of life for residents and visitors in the San Juan Islands and vessels of all types are harbored in our waters, including vessels that have become run down to the point of sinking and boats that have been abandoned by their owners. These boats cause problems when they sink or go aground.


They often contain oil, fuel, and other hazardous chemicals that pollute the water. When they break apart, trash and debris litter the beaches as well as contaminate the water. Sinking and sunken boats also cause hazards to navigation.

There are five boats in immediate need of towing in San Juan Island waters, with several more being close to derelict status. The Department of Natural Resources funds the recovery of vessels only after they have sunk, and by this time the pollution damage is well underway.

"Removing a derelict vessel before it sinks just makes common sense. It prevents toxic contaminants from polluting our waters and threatening marine life," said Marc Forlenza, Executive Officer of the Friday Harbor Power Squadron.

Dave Cable, Executive Director of the Common Sense Alliance said, "We're not just talking about saving the marine environment, we are intent upon doing it."

According to San Juan County Auditor F. Milene Henley, "Removing a sunken vessel can cost as much as $86,000 to salvage." The cost of towing, crushing and disposing or recycling a boat before it sinks can be considerably less.

According to Terry Whalen of A-1 Marine, Friday Harbor, the cost may be as much as ten times less if action is taken before sinking. "The last boat we hauled up in Hunter Bay cost $120k to salvage. We could have towed it in, hauled and crushed it for $10-15k, saving more than $100k. You can clean up a lot of old boats for a hundred grand, if you get them before they sink."

The funds raised by private groups are to be matched 1:1 by the County and 10:1 by the State through the Department of Natural Resources. According to the auditor, the County and State matching funds would be made available to a contractor or contractors who would operate the program locally. Also stepping up in support of the Program, is the Port of Friday Harbor, who will make an in kind (non-cash) contribution of temporary dock space and pumps etc for derelict vessels in transit to final processing.

Henley has committed to presenting the issue of funding to the County Council in time for consideration in 2011 Budget. Additional donations from all private parties are welcome. Contact Marc Forlenza at the Friday Harbor Power Squadron. getmarc@aol.com


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