Derelict Vessels Litter Waterways

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The graveyard of broken boats began to grow in 2003 after Florida legislators stopped funding a program to remove the derelict vessels.

Ironically, that's when the state needed the funds the most. Since then Florida has been hit by eight major hurricanes sending event more boats to the bottom of the bays, bayous, rivers and the Gulf.

The cost of removing vessels from the water can be more expensive than they're even worth, so many owners simply leave them to sink, and there's really nothing authorities can do about it.

Authorities don't have much recourse except to file a lawsuit or criminal charges against the owner, but they say they're willing to do that to ensure safety.

Clay Evans, boat captain of Sea Tow, says, "Most of these boats have fuel on them. If they do have engines, the engines have oil in them, it will leak out and it's very harmful to the environment."

Without that state program, most local governments don't have the money to remove the derelict vessels, so state officials are suggesting an alternative money source.

Stan Kirkland of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says, "What we encourage counties to do is tap into their boating registration money so the get 50 percent of those funds and they can actually use those funds to remove vessels in their county waters."

Removing each vessel would cost thousands of dollars, but mariners say it's worth every penny to clean up the waterways.

Authorities say the best way to prevent losing your vessel in a storm is to have a safe place to store it, and make plans to get it into storage well before the storm gets close.