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Derelict Vessel Removal on the Horizon for St Andrew Bay

Scott Jackson, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County and Florida Sea Grant Agent
Special to the News Herald

The problems associated with “derelict vessels” are many. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Derelict Vessel Program cites several issues, including potential water pollution and navigational hazards. The agency also reports derelict vessels can cause problems with illegal housing and activities such as theft and vandalism. Depending on the vessel length and condition, the cost of each vessel removal can range from $10,000 to $20,000, or more, placing a financial burden on local government.

The UF/IFAS Extension Bay County office received a grant from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA Office of Response and Restoration to support the removal of Hurricane Michael Vessels last spring. The first phase of the vessel removal project was scheduled to begin in 2020. As a result of the pandemic and executive orders from Florida’s Governor, there was a pause to allow vessel owners the opportunity to address violations in this unprecedented situation. This put legal proceedings and investigations on hold from March through September 2020. Plans are being finalized to remove at least 25 vessels over the next few months from St Andrew Bay. This includes 10 derelict vessels and 15 Hurricane impacted vessels.

Derelict and abandoned vessels like this one will be removed using available funding, beginning in the next few weeks. Photo by L. Scott Jackson.

Local government is also stepping up to help Bay County remove derelict vessels and storm impacted vessels. Funding for removal of derelict vessels not associated with hurricanes will come from Bay County Public Works sources such as boating improvement funds. Additional vessels may also be removed by FWC and the City of Panama City during the spring.

Despite the delay in the initial timeline, we gained the opportunity to complete the necessary groundwork needed for removal. In summary, all legal work for these vessels has been completed by FWC, funds are in place, and contractors are preparing to mobilize. To view a map of the project vessel removal targets (25 boats) please visit http://bit.ly/BayDVs.

FWC provides additional guidance for derelict vessels on their website which can be accessed at https://myfwc.com/boating/waterway/derelict-vessels.

If you have additional questions regarding this project or derelict vessels, please email our project team at Bay@ifas.ufl.edu  or call 850-784-6105.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Thomas Obreza, Interim-Dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.