Removal deadline for boats stuck in Hilton Head creek ending as vessels deteriorate

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comOctober 1, 2013 

In the weeks since two boats ran aground in a Hilton Head Island creek, kayak tour guide Mark Palmerlee has tried to clear debris falling from the vessels into the water.

Using a canoe to carry items or dragging heavier ones behind him, Palmerlee has taken three truckloads of trash falling from the Lady Essie and the Dianie, the boats stuck on Jarvis Creek. Items Palmerlee has pulled from the water include a small refrigerator, shrimp baskets, a large table, cabinets, and other assorted pieces of foam insulation and wood.

Despite his best efforts, the situation has only gotten worse, he said.

"The Lady Essie is totally falling apart," he said. "The walls of the boat are peeling apart like an onion. There's still items falling off the boats every day."

The vessels got stuck Aug. 14, as the captain of the Port Royal-based Lady Essie tried to tow the Dianie from a dock at the end of Cora Lee Lane.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered the boats' owners to remove them from Jarvis Creek in an order Aug. 21, according to DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley. That gave them 30 days to begin removing or salvaging the vessels.

That deadline passed with no action taken by the owner of the Dianie, DHEC spokeswoman Lindsay Evans said. Although the 30-day period has expired, no timetable is currently set for the boat's removal, she said. DHEC has declined to release the owner's name.

The Lady Essie's deadline is Friday.

Evans said an enforcement meeting with the owner of the Dianie is scheduled for Oct. 15, during which alleged violations, like failure to remove the boat as ordered, will be discussed.

It remains unclear when the boats will be removed, however, and that doesn't sit well with some residents, such Madeline Chatlain. A paddleboarder, Chatlain had gone through the area last week and taken pictures of items like doors and plastic foam floating in the creek.

"I don't know how they're going to pick up all the trash in the marsh," she said. "We should penalize the owners and make them go out there and pick it up. They have to be held accountable. We're going to have to pay the price for the stupidity of a few."

Island resident Wes Breinich urged Hilton Head Town Council during its meeting Tuesday to remove the boats or pressure the state to do so, arguing they've become an eyesore.

"The town, state and boat owners made a mistake by not removing the boats sooner," Breinich told the council.

Town manager Steve Riley told Breinich in a Sept. 13 email that he believed the town could remove the vessels under its nusiance ordinance if the owners did not do so within 15 days of being notified by the town.

Riley said after the meeting Tuesday staff was working to determine how much it could cost the town to remove the boats. Riley said the issue may go before council at its next meeting Oct. 15.

Reporter Tom Barton (twitter.com/IPBG_Tom) contributed to this report. Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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