Florida counties can apply for derelict vessel removal funds

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Derelict boat in Monroe County waters. Courtesy: Monroe County

Derelict boat in Monroe County waters. Courtesy: Monroe County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is taking applications for derelict vessel removal.

The FWC is extending the opportunity for state, county, municipal and other authorized governmental entities to apply for Derelict Vessel Removal Grants, according to a statement.

There are 370 boats that pose a hazard to navigation in Florida, plus 226 other “at risk” vessels that weren’t removed after Hurricane Irma, which destroyed about 3,000 boats across the state, according to a 2018 report.

Total funding available to state, county and city governments allocated for derelict vessel removal for fiscal year 2018-2019 is $1 million.

The third application period for the Bulk Derelict Vessel Removal Grant Program begins May 6 and ends June 19.

Funds for removal of derelict vessels that meet the requirements may be applied for at any time during this opportunity period. Applications will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until all available funds have been expended.

Projects must be executed immediately upon receipt of an approved purchase order. Payment will be issued upon completion of the closeout requirements in the Commission Derelict Vessel Final Removal Funding Opportunity Program Guidelines.

Before 2008, counties across Florida were charged with removing dangerous vessels from public waterways. They did this largely by using money from vessel-registration fees.

By the time the recession hit, the derelict problem “had grown out of control,” according to the Miami New Times. In South Florida, storms in 2004 and 2005 had left behind dozens of abandoned, dilapidated and sunken boats.

In 2008, the Florida legislature earmarked $1.55 million to FWC for derelict removal. By 2009, The Derelict Vessel Program administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and his colleagues had set up a database that identified 1,500 derelicts across the state.

Since 2016, the state legislature has granted about $1 million a year for derelict-boat removal. The system allows authorities to connect the boats to owners, who are then required to pay for removal and disposal. If an owner cannot pay, the state and county remove the vessels.

Owners who leave sinking boats can be charged with first-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in prison. The worst offenders also face felony dumping charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

The Commission Derelict Vessel Final Removal Funding Opportunity Program application and guidelines can be downloaded here

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