State carts off derelict vessels, produces smooth sailing

Nov. 19 in the Houston Chronicle

Craig Cook pointed down Dickinson Bayou and slowed his boat, stamped with the seal of the state’s General Land Office.

“There used to be a graveyard back there,” he said, looking toward the next bend in the water.

Aerial photographs show 25 derelict boats had crowded “The Boneyard,” a shallow shoreline where, for decades, owners had abandoned their vessels to rot, rust and sink.

Other boats, which might have once been productive fishing ships or prized speedboats, were hidden underwater or had broken into difficult-to-count segments of decks and keels.

Abandonment was the simple – and once legal – answer for owners who couldn’t afford the upkeep or disposal costs of aging watercraft.

Before a 2005 law banned the practice and established a new state program authorized to clear public waterways, Texas had no plan for how to deal with boats abandoned by their owners even though the impact was clear.

Derelict vessels can create navigation hazards, leak petrochemicals and other pollutants, become dump sites for hazardous chemicals, change the pattern of soil settlement and damage delicate wildlife nurseries.

No state or federal agency had tackled the problem because no one saw it as its responsibility. Clearly boat owners, not governments, should be responsible for properly disposing of vessels nearing the end of life.

But not every owner does that.

Read the full story at Chron.com.

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