CBCC Set to Start Removing Sunken Vessels from Coral Bay Harbor in January

CORAL BAY ­— Armed with a $90,000 federal grant, Coral Bay Community Council officials hope to start removing the first of about 12 sunken vessels from Coral Bay harbor in January, according to the group’s new environmental programs associate.

“We want to start getting the boats out in January,” said Sean Richardson, CBCC’s recently hired Environmental Programs Associate, who is overseeing the group’s Marine Debris Removal Grant. “We hope to have things in place in terms of selecting a contractor by December.”

CBCC received $90,000 in grant funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program and NOAA’s Restoration Center to remove derelict vessels and clean along shorelines and mangroves.

With CBCC committing additional in-kind donations, the total project value of the grant reaches about $140,000. Of that total, however, only $60,000 will be used to remove sunken and derelict vessels, according to Richardson.

“The total for the grant is $90,000,” Richardson said. “For the boat removal we have about $60,000.”

The CBCC Environmental Programs Associate did not know how many of the estimated 12 derelict vessels currently in Coral Bay harbor could be removed with the $60,000.

“We actually have no idea right now about the number of vessels that can be removed,” said Richardson. “That depends on what the contractors say they will be able to do.”

CBCC will host a pre-Request for Proposal meeting with all potential contractors — who must be fully insured and have valid business licenses to qualify — on Thursday, October 30, at 10 a.m. at the group’s Coral Bay office. At the meeting, officials will introduce requirements and the scope of work for the project, according to a CBCC prepared statement.

In the meantime, CBCC is working with local and federal partners to evaluate the harbor in terms of grounded vessels, Richardson explained.

“In the meantime we’re kind of just evaluating in terms of what is there and what can be taken out with the funds that we have stuff of that nature,” said Richardson. “We are in the evaluation process at this point.”

The first of CBCC’s pledged in-kind donations for the Marine Debris Removal Grant will be realized on Thursday, October 23, when the group hosts a marine clean up in Coral Bay. Volunteers are asked to meet at Skinny Legs at 9 a.m. to receive assignments and volunteer forms to ensure their hours will be counted toward the matching fund grant, according to a prepared statement by CBCC.

While cleaning up Coral Bay harbor — of shoreline marine debris and derelict vessels —  has been an ongoing process over the past few years, this is the first significant grant to address the issue, CBCC President Sharon Coldren explained in a prepared statement.

“For decades, on an on-going basis, cleanup, removal and disposal of marine debris, and rescue of grounded vessels — two sailboats were rescued after T.S. Bertha recently — have been accomplished by boaters, the Coral Bay Yacht Club members, the Coral Bay Community Council and other community volunteers,” Coldren said in the group’s prepared statement. “The moorings maintainer, charter boat captains, marine services store, and shoreline restaurants all participate. However, these volunteers have  been frustrated by the lack of funding to remove the grounded and sunken wrecks that leave visitors with the erroneous conclusion that Coral Bay’s boaters don’t care environmentally.”

“This federal NOAA grant funding for derelict vessel removal will raise the morale of all who continuously work to keep the bay clean,” Coldren said in the press release.

CBCC will work with Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials to declare certain boats abandoned. A competitive contracting process will follow after which CBCC — in collaboration with DPNR, NOAA and the Coral Bay Yacht Club — will chose a qualified, insured local marine salvage company to actually remove the vessels from the harbor.

“We hope there will be enough grant funds for a contractor to remove all of the existing derelict vessels,” Coldren said in CBCC’s press release. “If not, we will seek private dollar contributions to remove the rest of them as part of the same contract.”

In total, the Marine Debris Removal project is expected to be wrapped up in about 18 months, according to information from CBCC.

For more information about CBCC’s Marine Debris Removal Grant, call the group at 776-2099. To register for the pre-RFP meeting, email Richardson at sean@coralbaycommunitycouncil.org or call the CBCC office.