Owners now have 15 days to remove boats stuck in Hilton Head creek

tbarton@islandpacket.comNovember 15, 2013 

The owners of two shrimp boats stranded in Jarvis Creek have 15 days to remove their vessels, says the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Joseph Wright of Hilton Head Island and Essie Lambert of Savannah also were ordered to each pay a $1,800 fine that increases $100 a day for each day the boats remain in the creek after the deadline.

It is unclear, however, whether the owners will comply with the new orders. Previous attempts by state officials to get the owners to remove the boats failed.

Attempts Friday to reach Wright, Lambert and a DHEC spokeswoman were unsuccessful.

DHEC ordered Wright, owner of the Dianie, and Lambert, owner of the Lady Essie, to remove the boats Aug. 21. That gave them 30 days to begin removing or salvaging the vessels. That deadline passed with no action by the owners.

During an enforcement meeting Oct. 15, Wright and Lambert's husband and Lady Essie captain, James Murray, said all of their salvage attempts were unsuccessful, according to the new orders issued Wednesday by DHEC.

The vessels became stuck Aug. 14 when Murray tried to tow the Dianie from a dock at the end of Cora Lee Lane.

Murray told The Island Packet at the time that he was unfamiliar with the creek and the shallow areas, and he ran aground as he was trying to leave the creek.

He said the Lady Essie then began to list as the tide ran out. The boat came to rest on its side. As the tide came back in, the Essie became partially submerged.

Meanwhile, the Town of Hilton Head Island will evaluate five proposals it received Thursday from marine contractors for the disposal job, which could be considered if the owners again fail to remove the boats, town manager Steve Riley said Friday.

Officials have yet to decide whether the town will remove the shrimp trawlers, an unbudgeted expense that likely would reach six figures and require council approval, Riley said.

"We'll wait and see what happens and stay in contact with the state, and be ready to talk about this in detail with council if it's not rectified," he said.

Nearby residents have pressured the town to remove the boats, believing state environmental officials have been too slow to act and arguing the trawlers are an eyesore and environmental hazard.

Island kayak tour guide Mark Palmerlee has tried to clear debris that has fallen from the vessels into the water. He said he has pulled a small refrigerator, shrimp baskets, a large table, cabinets, foam insulation and wood from the water.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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