Recent storm breaks free abandoned boat in Barnegat Bay. Here's how officials plan to remove it.
Abandoned boats are a problem statewide, and many Ocean County residents are asking the question – what do you do with them?
A boat in the waters surrounding John Bartlett Park in Berkeley Township is just one of potentially thousands abandoned and left behind, with no sign of the owners.
One boat was left in the Barnegat Bay for at least a year, and last weekend's storm broke it free. It nearly crashed into Jennifer Wunnenberg's bulkhead.
“Should have been taken care of a long time ago,” says Wunnenberg. “Over a year ago, we've been watching it, hoping it didn't happen, it's just horrible, horrible thing.”
The 47-foot boat now rests on the shore of the park, land owned by the county. So why is it still there a year later?
“There isn't a clear process on how to get rid of these vessels,” says Greg Elliott, chief of Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue. “A lot of times, insurance isn't always there. These people don't have money, they abandon their boats, they walk away, sometimes there isn't anybody to come and take them. The state police will charge you. They will assign fines, but ultimately it doesn't get the boat out of a bad situation.”
Two days ago, the Coast Guard pumped what was left of diesel gas and oil out of the engine for environmental safety purposes. Still, a lot of residents are concerned about what's going to happen to the boat as we approach the holiday weekend.
The Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue team has the means to remove vessels from the water. The cost for the operation is estimated at $50,000. They hope to secure a grant to pay for the removal.
“All we need to do is find a safe place to put it and that's the problem,” says Carl Mattocks, president of Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue. “No one wants to be the keeper of something that will decay while the legal battle goes on. Who's going to pay for it?”
The authorities know the names of the boat owners, and their former landlord says they owe her $200,000 for unpaid rent. But the problem is she says the courts did nothing to help her and now they've simply disappeared, leaving her home a mess and a boat left at the mercy of the bay.