Debris Cleanup

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TowBoatUS Beaufort NOAA Marine Debris photo 7_6_20

For years, a pristine set of barrier islands off North Carolina’s coast had become an illegal dumping ground for unwanted boats, tires and other trash.

The town of Beaufort, N.C., and the Rachel Carson Reserve identified the problem but needed help with a plan of action, according to BoatUS.

TowBoatUS Beaufort Capt. Lee Sykes offered to help move the debris and foot part of the bill. Knowing the large scale of the marine debris removal project, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water helped the town secure funding through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program grant — which ultimately paid $68,000 of the project’s $175,000 price tag.

“This project showed how local organizers can reach out within the community and find various stakeholders that had unique talents and skill sets to take an idea and make it a viable project,” said Sykes in a statement. “When the Reserve came to me and wanted me to get involved with this project, I said not only are we going to get involved on the operations side, but we’re going to get involved on the money side, too. We matched a lot of money to help pull this off because it was a large project.”

It took weeks to remove more than 43 abandoned moorings, 11 vessels and more than 62 tons of debris.

“We were all saddened by the debris,” said Sykes. “Once one or two wrecks were dumped, others followed. A handful were from Hurricane Florence. Transient vessels were having difficulty anchoring and often struck unmarked submerged objects. With downtown just on the other side of the channel, it was an eyesore to everyone.”

The TowBoatUS Beaufort crew hauled all of the debris ashore, where the wrecks were scoured for recyclables and hazardous materials, then sent to landfills.

The BoatUS Foundation has also worked with other local TowBoatUS on-water towing companies for NOAA Marine Debris projects in Ohio and Maryland, and contributed to education and outreach on the Beaufort project.

Check out a video on the project here.

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