Coral Bay Community Council gets $90K from NOAA to remove derelict boats stuck in bay


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ST. THOMAS - The Coral Bay Community Council is hoping to bid farewell to about a dozen derelict vessels that have been stuck in the waters of the northern shore of the bay since as far back as 1989.

The council recently received a $90,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to remove the vessels, which are too large for the community to remove on its own.

The funds will be pulled from NOAA's Marine Debris Program and its Restoration Center.

The council has committed to providing in-kind services and funds for a total project value of $140,000 and will hire a project manager for the effort.

The council is expected to put out a request for bids this fall, and they hope to begin work by early next year. The effort is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

"This is something that the community has been wanting to do for a long time," said Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community Council.

The community has removed dozens of beached boats in the last few decades, usually after a tropical storm or hurricane.

The vessels of manageable sizes, less than 35 feet or so, often are removed by the owners, who legally are obligated to remove them, or by local contractors. In some cases, boaters, Coral Bay Yacht Club members, council members and other community members have helped.

However, each vessel that cannot be handled by the community requires about $6,000 to $10,000 to remove, Coldren said.

For this reason, some of the people who own the grounded vessels sell them to investors, while others avoid litigation because consequences are imposed sparingly, Coldren said.

It is unclear how the contractor will remove the vessels that remain now, because the responses to the RFP are expected to include proposals for removal.

It is possible that the winning response could propose using a barge to remove the vessels, or it could use flotation devices to float the abandoned boats to the surface to haul them away, according to Stephen Hendren, who is a contractor and also is the commodore of the Coral Bay Yacht Club.

"It really gives us a chance to clean up the bay," Hendren said of the federal grant.

The council will be working with the Coral Bay Yacht Club, the Kids and Sea Program, the John's Folly Learning Institute and the Friends of the V.I. National Park to plan clean ups in conjunction with the vessel removals.

One or more graduate students from the University of the Virgin Islands also will be assisting by completing the environmental assessments to precede the removals. The students will receive a stipend of a yet-to-be-determined amount through the grant.

What will happen to the vessels - which at this point are assumed to hold no value - is up to the contractor with the winning bid, Hendren said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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