Abandoned boats bring blight to Central Florida waters

Brevard County officials hope for more funds toward boat removal

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Abandoned boats bringing blight to Central Florida waters has been a longstanding problem across the state and Hurricane Matthew only made it worse.

News 6 reporter James Sparvero learned that Brevard County failed to clean up all derelict vessels in time for the start of the 2017 hurricane season.

Brevard County said that if it weren't for Hurricane Matthew, crews may have been able to remove all 50 abandoned boats in the Indian River Lagoon following the storm.

Instead, the county got halfway there, then ran out of time and money as that fiscal year came to a close.

Two months ago, with $85,000 in state grant money, the county began removing the boats. Each removal costs between $2,500 and $6,000. The county still needed tens of thousands of dollars more to finish the job.

"It's like pulling teeth out of a hen. It's a problem," Wally Moran, with North Channel Sailing, said.

Wally Moran, a sailor, anchors his boat in Cocoa Village next to one of those eyesores that doesn’t seem to be moving.

He said the state is not making removal the priority that he believes it should be.

"The funding has not been made available in many cases," Moran said.

This past year, $1.4 million was put into the state's derelict vessel removal program and with it, 190 abandoned boats were removed statewide.

The money was not recurring, though, so supporters in Tallahassee fought again this session, and the new budget, to get the governor's signature next month, includes another million dollars that will go toward removing boats.

Allan Chapman, with the Historic Cocoa Village Association, said it’s more than an eyesore.

“It provides or it leaves a sense that there's a lawlessness about the area here that really isn't true,” Chapman said.

Chapman said the blight of abandoned boats discourages some sailors from visiting this waterfront.

The FWC said transient boaters are actually part of the problem.

Phil Horning, who leads the state's derelict vessel removal program, told News 6 that it’s a continuous issue.

“Each vessel has its own story,” Horning said. “They never stop showing up."

Moran, a traveling sailor from Canada, disagrees.

"The problem is not cruising boaters, people like myself," Moran said.

Moran said the state needs to create better options for people who want to get rid of their boats.

"Years ago Florida had many, many, small mom and pop-type marinas. The problem is all of a sudden those marinas got sold to developers building condos like those ones over there and where there used to be inexpensive places for somebody to put a small boat now there's no place,” Moran said. “To a large extent, Florida created the problem that it now has the deal with."

The county said it has removed over 150 abandoned boats in the past decade. Leaders hope they will be allocated enough money the next fiscal year to remove all abandoned vessels.

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