EVERETT — The state Department of Natural Resources’ Derelict Vessel Removal Program tries to get owners to pay for abandoning boats in public waters, but sometimes the agency is left high and dry.
Despite state law making owners responsible for the bill when their junk boat is removed, program manager Troy Wood said the DNR recovers less than half of 1% of the cost.
In the Snohomish River, the Midas, a 100-foot World War II-era fishing boat, has sat sunk since June 2018. The DNR seized the vessel Aug. 14.
It’ll cost contractors about $400,000 to dismantle it and crane pieces onto a barge.
“(The owner) is aware that he’s going to be given a bill,” Wood said. “I’m not very confident he’ll be able to pay it. Unfortunately, most of our derelict vessel owners don’t have a lot of assets.”
The removal is expected to start on Sept. 16 and will wrap up near the end of the month.
“That depends on what kind of problems they run into when cleaning out the vessel, as well as weather,” Wood said. “We don’t want to put any of our workers in jeopardy.”
Initially, contractors hoped to start at the beginning of the month, but getting work boats, a barge and a crane is taking longer than anticipated.
“Cranes on water are in high demand,” Wood said.
About a half mile north of the Midas, the DNR is working to seize a sunken sailboat.
If the 50-footer isn’t moved by Sept. 30, the state plans to take custody. Getting it out of the river could cost $60,000 to $100,000.
The sailboat’s owner, who isn’t returning the DNR’s calls, is a bit of a regular for the program. Previously, he was involved with two derelict boats — one in Poulsbo and another on Bainbridge Island.
When they don’t pay up, the DNR usually sends the bill to a collections agency.
If that doesn’t work, owners can get ticketed up to $500 or charged with a misdemeanor for abandoning ship.
Wood said a man was recently sentenced to a few days in jail for leaving his sunken 125-footer in Pacific County.
Such action is rare for the DNR, he said. But, he’s hoping to see more of it.
“We’re just trying to encourage owners to take responsibility for their vessels,” Wood said. “For some people it might take a ticket.”
To avoid that, the program lets owners set up a payment plan.
For the sailboat owner, Wood said the DNR’s efforts have met deaf ears. His two other bills have already gone to collection agencies and the DNR could file charges.
“If they’re willing to work with us, we’d take that into account before recommending them to law enforcement,” he said.