Folly looks to clean-out ‘garbage’ boats

by Bill Davis | Current Staff Writer

The City of Folly Beach has asked the state to allow it more latitude in policing boats moored in and around its city limits in hopes of saving money, protecting navigable waters, and protecting beautiful waterways.

For over a decade, the city has worked to deal with derelict and abandoned vessels in its waterways. In 2008, the city and state identified 16 boats left to rot in Folly’s streams, creeks, and rivers.

In 2019, they identified 14 more such vessels, and the cost to remove each boat ran between $8,000-$20,000, depending on whether the boat had run aground or was submerged.

The request to the state is to allow the city to enact and enforce its own local ordinance in addition to the state’s purview, with the hope of cutting off problems more quickly and before they grow increasingly expensive.

In general, DHEC’s role with abandoned and derelict vessels has been concentrated on requiring the vessels to be removed by their owners. When necessary, DHEC has sought grant funding for vessel removal in partnership with local municipalities.

Folly’s efforts is copied after similar ordinances in other nearby coastal communities, including the cities of Charleston and Bluffton.

The city says it wants to be allowed to issue permits, free of charge, to boaters who moor here “only to ensure responsible use of waterways.”

If a boat is out of compliance with the ordinance for 10 days, or if it’s been abandoned for 45 days, the city would have the power to look for ways to remove and store the boat.

Some of the criteria for abandonment would include if the boat was laden with barnacles, its interior was exposed to the elements, it was in danger of breaking free from its mooring, if its sinking, or it doesn’t have the required local permit.

The focus of the ordinance would be on boats parked in the channels, rivers, and marshes in the area, and not at public or private docks. Boats moored at those would remain under the jurisdiction of the state.

The anchorage permit would apply to any and all boats left in local waters for over 24 hours, and would include proof of ownership of the boat, its current insurance, Coast Guard registration, and a name, address, and phone number of a responsible party who could respond to the boat within 24 hours, and of course the permit.

Additionally, the ordinance would require boaters to secure their vessel within four hours of a hurricane passing, to make sure the boat doesn’t become unmoored and it, or its parts, damages others property, like other boats or docks.

Fines for violating portions of the ordinance would range from $1,000 to $5,000, on top of possible seizure.

DHEC spokesperson Laura Renwick says that one of the agency’s departments, the Office of Coastal Resource Management “encourages communities to identify opportunities to address coastal issues at the local level when possible.”

Additionally, Renwick says that jurisdiction “over abandoned and derelict vessels in South Carolina is coordinated among federal, state and local partners, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, U.S. Coast Guard, DHEC” the state’s Department of Natural Resources, as well as local law enforcement.

Folly Mayor Tim Goodwin says the problem is abandoned, or in his words “garbage” boats cause is heightened in and around the city’s landing, where submerged boats’ exposed masts can be tricky to maneuver around.

Over the past 10 years, the city and state have had to spend upward of $200,000, to remove abandoned boats, says Goodwin. And some of the boats that have people living on them aren’t having their waste-water disposal monitored.

That means, according to the mayor, that “stuff” could easily be dumped into the water where others are trying to have a good time. The ordinance would also address this.

Goodwin says there is little hope of the city actually making any money on salvaging any of the boats that could get snared in the ordinance, as they are pretty well picked over, especially their electronics, before they would be hauled out.

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