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Board searching for ways to deal with derelict boats

Washington’s Planning Board is exploring options regarding abandoned and/or derelict vessels in areas of the Pamlico River within the city limits.

During its meeting last Tuesday, the board said the issue needs addressing, if for no other reason than safety. Finding the appropriate way to solve the problem could take time, board members noted.

State law allows some counties to adopt local ordinances that deal with abandoned or derelict vessels. Board Chairman John B. Tate III, an attorney, doesn’t believe municipalities have that authority. The city might be able to use its police powers and deal with abandoned or derelict vessels as nuisances, similar to how they deal with abandoned vehicles, Tate said. Another option might be asking the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to consider enacting an ordinance that addressed abandoned and derelict vessels, he said.

“I don’t see how you can argue that an abandoned vessel is not a nuisance. It’s like the definition of a nuisance,” Tate said.

The Town of Beaufort is taking that approach in dealing with such vessels in waters within its jurisdiction, said John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural services, adding that a simple solution to the problem might be adding abandoned or derelict vessels as nuisances to the city’s abandoned car ordinance. “We’re trying to figure out how we can handle these boats,” he said.

If an abandoned or derelict vessel is in a channel maintained by the Coast Guard, that agency is responsible for removing such vessels, Rodman said. As for abandoned/derelict vessels not in a channel, there’s some question as to which entity is responsible for removing them so they don’t pose hazards, he said.

At least three coastal counties, including Dare, New Hanover and Brunswick counties, have adopted ordinances to address the issue. Tate said the state gave all counties covered by the Coastal Area Management Act the power to enact such ordinances. Beaufort County is a CAMA county.

The lack of a statewide program and state funding to address the issue, combined with the fact there are no government agencies and no organizations taking the lead on solving the problem, means the responsibility for regulating or removing abandoned/derelict vessels in North Carolina waters, for now, remains with local governments or private citizens.

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners, during its meeting Monday, is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on a proposed abandoned/derelict vessel ordinance that focuses on Ocracoke’s harbor, known as Silver Lake.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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