Town considers removing boats stuck in Hilton Head creek

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 18, 2013 

The Town of Hilton Head Island wants to remove two boats stranded in Jarvis Creek and is seeking proposals from marine contractors for the disposal job.

Officials have yet to decide whether, in fact, the town will remove the shrimp trawlers, which ran aground Aug. 14, according to Tom Fultz, the town's director of administrative services.

Proposals are due Nov. 14. It's unclear how much the work could cost or whether state government would pay a portion, Fultz said.

"There are a couple different methods that could be used, but until we have the proposals, we won't know what the costs will be," he said. "Once we open the proposals and see the prices, we'll review them, check references and report back to the town manager."

Nearby residents have pressured the town to remove the boats because they believe state environmental officials have been too slow to act.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered the boats' owners to remove them Aug. 21. That gave them 30 days to begin removing or salvaging the vessels. That deadline passed with no action taken by the owners.

DHEC has declined to release the owners' names. An enforcement meeting with one of the owners was scheduled for Tuesday, during which alleged violations, like failure to remove the boat as ordered, were to be discussed.

DHEC spokeswoman Lindsey Evans said Friday both owners have agreed to remove the boats and developed plans to do so. However, the individual who will perform the work is not available for three weeks, according to one of the owners, Evans said.

"Meanwhile, we have instructed the owners to begin debris removal from the waterways," she wrote in an email. "We are developing a consent order to be signed by the owners. This order will lay out both the time frame for removal and potential penalties involved."

Meanwhile, though, the town will proceed with its request for proposals, town manager Steve Riley told council Tuesday.

The vessels became stuck when the captain of the Port Royal-based Lady Essie tried to tow the Dianie from a dock at the end of Cora Lee Lane.

Island resident Wes Breinich again urged Town Council on Tuesday to remove the boats, arguing they've become an eyesore and an environmental hazard.

Councilman Lee Edwards agreed.

"From the road you just see a couple of sunken boats, but when you go out there, you see garbage all over the marsh," he said at the meeting. "... I also think we need to take any and all legal action where it makes sense to make the people responsible for it pay for it.

"But we need to get it cleaned up. It's an embarrassing mess."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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