Boat removal goes slowly after Sandy

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Almost three months after Hurricane Sandy, waters off the New Jersey shore still have plenty of hazards, including wrecked boats that are becoming increasingly difficult to pull from the murky depths.

Since Sandy devastated the shore, Capt. Adam Vandenhouten and his crew at AshBritt Environmental have been on a mission to pull the shipwrecked vessels from Barnegat Bay, according to CBS New York.

The state of New Jersey hired AshBritt to remove the boat debris from the bay and the company only has until the end of the month to complete the job.

“It can be very difficult,” Vandenhouten told the network. “Mud can settle on top of a vessel, making it more difficult, and you get a vacuum effect.”

Diver Mike Sonta discovered that mud had indeed settled on top of a vessel after strapping the 28-foot boat in frigid waters.

“The boat, since we’ve last been here, has sunken to the mud a little bit more,” Jim Rolette of AshBritt told CBS. “So when we started coming up on it, the straps underneath, the hull slipped more toward the bow.”

AshBritt has pulled 33 other similar boats from New Jersey waters in the last week and a half. There are hundreds of other vessels still in the water, and there are also parts — and entire homes — still in the bay.

One home was left underwater after Sandy tossed it into Barnegat Bay from the town of Mantoloking. Such debris poses an environmental hazard and is a threat to anyone in the water.

“It’s been difficult in spots,” Vandenhouten told the station. “You have a lot of areas where your depth — they’re supposed to be a certain depth, and they’re not.”

“The conditions, with winter coming on, they’re making it more difficult as each day passes,” Rolette said.

Pulling out one privately owned boat took an entire day. Crews hope the winter remains mild.

As of earlier this month, state officials said, there were about 1,400 vessels, 58 homes and eight cars in Barnegat Bay. All had to be pulled out by the summer. Crews have set a target of Memorial Day weekend to get all of the debris out.

TowBoatUS owner Tom Hurst has been working with the New Jersey State Police and the Coast Guard, and as of earlier this month he had already pulled 400 boats out of these waters, including an 18-foot Boston Whaler.

New Jersey would not tell CBS 2 the cost of towing the boats, but officials did say they are hoping to get reimbursed by funds from the federal Sandy aid package.

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