'The things you would see floating by.' How Ian sent boats onto land and cars into water
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How do you count and clean up all the boats scattered across the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian?
Florida is trying.
The state's Fish and Wildlife officers have been tasked with documenting all of the derelict and displaced boats across the Gulf Coast and a swath of the Keys. The law enforcement agency has received more than 1,000 calls on its displaced boats hotline and assessed more than 2,100 boats so far, said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Ashlee Sklute.
READ MORE: How Ian sent boats onto land and cars into water
What boat owners can do
The agency urges all displaced boat owners to work with their insurance companies to arrange for the recovery, removal or disposal of their vessels. Many boat owners can't afford to have their vessels recovered, and they can call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 850-488-5600 to initiate the waiver process, which releases the ownership of the vessel.
Those boats are then cataloged, and will be eventually removed by a government-hired contractor.
What boat removal costs
The costs for an owner to salvage a boat can vary depending on "the circumstances, the size and type of vessel and where it's located," Sklute said.
"On average, however, a derelict vessel typically costs between $400 to $800 per foot to remove. A 30-foot yacht, barring any extraordinary circumstances, will probably cost between $12,000 and $24,000 to remove from the water," Sklute said.
In the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys, especially Key West and parts of the Lower Keys, took a beating from Hurricane Ian's surge — although not nearly as bad as the impact on the coast of Southwest Florida.
Capt. David Dipre, the top-ranking FWC officer in the island chain, said the agency identified about 150 boats in the Keys that were displaced by Ian, with several posing threats to navigation.
Under normal circumstances, boat owners are under a 45-day deadline to do something about their displaced or derelict vessels once contacted by the FWC, or face possible criminal charges. Due to the severity of the situation caused by Ian, the threat of criminal prosecution is off the table — for now.
"At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law, but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date," the agency said in a statement.
Dipre said the agency takes the issue seriously because most of the boats displaced during storms cause environmental damage, like scraping up the sea grass in shallow waters, before they settle where they end up.
"If they continue to sit there," Dipre said, "they're going to keep doing damage."
This story was originally published November 16, 20226:00 AM.
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