Some 20 abandoned and sunken boats will be removed from waterways in the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound region thanks to a federal grant.
The N.C. Coastal Federation, which received the grant from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, plans to start the boat-removal program this month.
The federation will coordinate the project with Dare County and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Moran Environmental Recovery has been hired to remove the vessels.
Division of Coastal Management staff identified numerous abandoned and sunken vessels and other large-scale marine debris that negatively affect different habitats within the Currituck Banks and Kitty Hawk Woods areas of the N.C. Coastal Reserve. Some of the habitats affected include oyster reef, submerged aquatic vegetation, shallow subtidal and coastal wetlands.
The sunken boats also pose a navigation problem for local waterway enthusiasts like Rick and Mary Ann Jones of Colington. The couple enjoy paddling the waters around Baum Point Island.
“During these outings, we continued to find small channels into the marsh, with several derelict boats partially sunk or grounded in the marsh,” the Joneses said. “While not considered navigable channels, removal of the derelict boats from these estuaries will ease the passage of our canoes and kayaks, allow the marsh to return to its natural state as habitat for all kinds of critters, and remove a potential hazard from storm surge displacement of derelict boats into navigable channels and/or resulting in additional damage to local properties.”
Removal of the sunken boats is expected to eliminate potential navigational hazards as well as restore sections of submerged aquatic vegetation that provides habitat for fish species.
Another goal of the project is to create a replicable case study on how local, state and federal agencies and organizations can work together to clean up abandoned and sunken vessels and other medium- and large-scale marine debris. The project will be part of the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan that reduce the amount of marine debris along North Carolina’s coast over the next five years.