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New mission, new manager, new $325K grant for derelict vessel removal program
If you're missing your 77-foot boat, "Attitude" (pictured), from its moorings in Roche Harbor, your boat has been towed away for demolition under the Derelict Vessel Removal program.
In a state with more than 300,000 recreational and commercial boats and over 2.4 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands, derelict or abandoned boats can cause serious environmental problems.
"Attitude," with fuel tanks that hold thousands of gallons of diesel, was found drifting toward a dock on Pearl Island. Disposing of the vessel is estimated to cost about $40,000.
Since 2002, the state has had a derelict vessel program, funded by $3 from every boat registration and a $4.5 million legislative appropriation included in the 2013-2015 state budget. The fund, which requires a 10 percent match from local jurisdictions which participate, has more than $4 million available for identifying and removing derelict vessels.
Marc Forlenza is taking over the county's derelict removal program from Joanruth Baumann, who founded the program as a county employee and ran the program for the past three years under contract with the county. He's also charged with coordinating a new Derelict Vessel Prevention program, using a $325,000 grant from the Puget Sound Partnership.
After the county defunded the program during the fiscal crisis, Forlenza, as then-commander of the Friday Harbor Power Squadron, raised $6,500 from boaters and other private sources as part of the matching fund, which Baumann used to convince the county to chip in $5,000, which in turn convinced the state's Department of Natural Resources to resume funding the program in San Juan County.
"I'm excited to take over managing this important program," said Forlenza, who has been boating for 50 years and has attained Power Squadron qualification as an advanced pilot, certified inland navigator and vessel navigator. "Joanruth has accomplished so much with very little money. County residents and the environment have both benefited from her work."
Baumann will concentrate on training volunteers in other counties to do what she and some 20 volunteers have done in San Juan County.
During the decade that Baumann managed the program, more than 75 derelict vessels have been removed from San Juan County waters, according to Melissa Ferris, Director of the prgam for DNR. More than twenty other boats in the county have been identified as derelicts and await removal - and more boats are abandoned every year.
Statewide, 509 boats have been removed from aquatic lands and 144 are in process to be removed, according to DNR website.
Baumann is proud of the results she's achieved, and Forlenza is ready to build on her achievements. "We're not interested in confiscating boats," he emphsized. "We want to resolve problems with boats in danger of sinking and polluting our waters, and we want to work with the owners - when we can find them."
The pollution danger, and the cost of removal, increases "ten-fold" when a boat sinks, says Baumann, who added, "This is a true community program, local residents cooperating to solve a definable problem - and the cost to the county is minimal."
"We're calling on islanders to help us identify boats that are abandoned or in danger of sinking," said Forlenza, who asks people to call him at 360-472-1644 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.