Junked boats called blight at Deale site

Vessels sharing Rockhold Creek with lavish yachts

Community image suffers

Two marina owners working to clean up marine graveyard

Anne Arundel

July 05, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The lavish million-dollar yachts and fishing boats are readily apparent in the marinas of Deale's Rockhold Creek.

But take a closer look, and check out the neighbors. Under the water's surface - and some just peeping over it - are the decaying remains of boats abandoned by owners, gutted and stripped of any identification.

For a southern Anne Arundel County community trying to build business and popularity as a boaters' destination, the marine graveyard is a blight.

With a little help from the state, two marina owners are removing the decaying vessels, most of which have been left near a county-owned pier for more than five years.

"In addition to it being harmful to the environment, it's also a reflection on local maritime business to have sunken boats lining the shoreline," said E. Steuart Chaney, president of Herrington Harbour, one of the participating marinas. "That's not the image we want Deale to have."

In the past few years, the small bayside community, population about 3,000, has been striving to become a destination for travelers by increasing services at its marinas and adding recreational activities in the area.

Chaney, an environmentalist, sees the boat cleanup as another way to improve the community. "You have to clean up everything that's obvious," he said.

Statewide, the Maryland Natural Resources Police remove about 65 boats each year on a budget of $300,000, said Debbie O'Dea, who runs the department's abandoned boat program. But many remain in waterfront counties including Anne Arundel, Queen Anne's, Somerset and Talbot.

In most cases, after the department is notified of an abandoned vessel, officers investigate to determine whether it has been abandoned. If so, the vessel is added to a list for removal.

According to state law, a boat is considered abandoned if it has been left illegally on public property for a minimum of 30 days, on private property for 180 days, or found adrift in state waters. The state can take custody of an abandoned boat within 15 days of notifying the owners or advertising in a local newspaper.

Because of limited funding, O'Dea said, the department selects boats for removal based on environmental and navigational hazards and location along the shoreline. The average cost per boat removal is $8,000.

For the project in Deale, the state provided Anne Arundel County with $30,000 for vessel removal in Rockhold Creek. But with 18 abandoned vessels identified, Chaney said, he and David Hans, who owns Paradise Marine, will foot most of the bill and do the work, rather than wait for the state.

"It would have virtually taken years to do what we are doing in two weeks," Chaney said. "The local people just decided to take it into their own hands."

Hans' Capital Marine Construction is lifting the sunken vessels to the surface with a crane and barge, and then pumping water out of them, so they'll float. The boats are moved to Chaney's Herrington Harbour North, where they are lifted onto land and stored.

Chaney said the boats will be broken down and properly disposed of in a landfill. Workers have taken pictures of each vessel in case an owner wants to claim it.

But so far, Chaney said, no one has protested.

Hans and crew began removing vessels, mostly abandoned work boats and pleasure craft, on June 26 and plan to finish this week.

Some of the abandoned boats, lodged behind piers and still-functioning vessels, are deteriorating, making them difficult to remove, Hans said.

The bottom of one boat fell out as it was being lifted to land. "I guess it was just mud holding it together," Hans said.

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