Nonprofit, agencies ask state for help removing abandoned boats from Charleston waterways

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 9:12 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Gov. Henry McMaster and a state representative joined the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, City of Folly Beach Police, Charleston Police Department and Wounded Nature Working Veterans on Wednesday for a tour of derelict boats in Charleston waterways.

Those agencies have worked to remove around 250 commercial and recreational vessels from Charleston waters. That translates to over two million pounds of fiberglass, lead, oil, fuel, plastics and foam.

“They pose a hazard to other boaters, reduce fish populations, and cause a big threat to the environment,” Rudy Socha, the CEO of Wounded Nature Working Veterans, said.

Socha says there are approximately 50 more vessels that need to be removed, and that number keeps growing.

Michael Merrill with the Charleston Harbor Patrol Unit says the vessels are a “breeding ground for crime,” like theft, drug use and domestic violence.

“They’re more isolated out here,” he said. “There’s less people around seeing what they’re doing.”

Folly Beach has removed 37 vessels over the past three years.

“As anybody who visits Folly can tell when you come across that last bridge, you don’t see boats and all kinds of debris in the waterways,” City of Folly Beach Police Chief Andrew Gilreath. “It’s really great.”

With a lack of money and resources, the groups are now asking the state for assistance to help get rid of the boats. The removal process is expensive. One barge located near the Wappoo Cut on James Island will cost $135,000 to remove. Industrial and commercial vessels are more expensive to take out.

Rep. Spencer Wetmore said that it is not a race to the finish line since they keep finding more boats that need to be removed. She said the funding to remove the boats and legislation need to work together to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

“Taking responsibility, making sure that we got owners taking responsibility for these boats, so the state doesn’t have to step in to spend taxpayer money,” Wetmore said.

Gov. McMaster said he thinks the time has come for this.

“We can do a lot if we work together and maybe see what they’ve done in other states and maybe see what they’ve done in different municipalities as in Folly Beach,” McMaster said. “We can put together a good program that would streamline the process and cost much less money.”