Displaced boats still go unclaimed after Sandy

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Fewer than 15 percent of displaced boats have been reclaimed by their owners a month after Hurricane Sandy.

Salvaging the boats can be a difficult and time-consuming process, the New Jersey State Police told the Press of Atlantic City.

Vessels and debris still litter the landscape at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Staff there have worked with owners and the state police to remove about a dozen boats from the area, but the storm pushed many vessels into inaccessible areas of the refuge, manager Virginia Rettig told the Press of Atlantic City.

Aerial surveys show that 130 vessels were deposited in the refuge from Galloway Township north to Brick Township in Ocean County, Rettig said. The stretch shows a debris field 22 miles along the shoreline, with many of the boats thrown into the woods.

“When the storm surge came across the barrier islands it picked up debris and boats, and then when it hit the tree line on the refuge and it finally reached some resistance, it all finally fell,” she told the paper. The displaced boats along the wreckage line at the edge of the marsh come with the issue of fuel that may be onboard or spilled.

“We’re very concerned about leaking hazardous materials. Any boats that have been compromised during the storm, we have to be careful removing them to not further contaminate the refuge,” Rettig said.

If owners suspect that their boats are displaced on the refuge they must contact the refuge to receive a special-use permit to go in and retrieve them, Rettig said.

“We need to make sure they remove the boat without causing further damage to the refuge. We have every intention of working with people to reunite them with their boats,” she said.

The task of reuniting boats with their owners has fallen largely to the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau. In the days and weeks after the Oct. 29 storm the bureau began locating and cataloging displaced vessels, building a database of boats and reaching out to the owners.

Sgt. Brian Polite, a spokesman for the state police, said the agency is mailing letters to boat owners as well as making follow-up phone calls for vessel removal, but the process has been slow. State police have identified about 950 boats and to date have received clarification that owners have removed 12 to 15 percent of the displaced boats.

State police spokesman Lt. Stephen Jones said the number of displaced boats could be in the thousands.

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