Town made right call on removing trawlers

Government's job is to pay for pricey expenses that benefit us all.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMarch 12, 2014 

Two shrimp boats stranded since August in Jarvis Creek will be removed by the Town of Hilton Head Island, which approved a budget amendment Jan. 7, 2014, to spend $175,000 on the project, believing the owners cannot afford to remove the boats themselves.

STAFF PHOTO

One down and one to go.

A contractor, employed by the Town of Hilton Head Island, has successfully dismantled and removed one derelict shrimp trawler and is in the process of removing another from Jarvis Creek. The two vessels have been stuck since August, raising concerns about contaminants leaking into the water as well as them impeding safe navigation of the creek.

More recently, town officials have raised red flags about people climbing up on the boats and jumping off them for fun, posing a liability.

"You have a personal-safety, environmental and navigational threat," said Scott Liggett, the town's public-projects and facilities director.

Ideally, the boats' owners would have paid for their removal. And the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered them to do so and set time limits.

But those deadlines came and went without action. James Murray, captain of one of the boats, said he and his wife wanted to get their boat out of the creek but did not have the money to do so.

That put the town in a tough spot: Should Town Council use taxpayers' money to haul away the boats or let the vessels rot?

We're pleased the town decided to remove the public nuisance, even though it means more than $157,000 will be taken from the town's reserve fund.

The point of government is to pay for pricey services that benefit us all, but that individuals cannot afford.

In our view, the removal of the boats meets that standard. Preservation of waterways and the protection of the overall environment is a longheld goal for the town. It's a big part of what makes Hilton Head a special place to visit and also why so many town residents choose to make the island their home.

And while the half-submerged vessels seemed an image worthy of a postcard, they posed a hazard to marine life. Floating debris along with fuel, oil and transmission fluid can damage waterways. It was incumbent upon the town to protect the creek since it was the only entity financially capable of doing so.

Such projects are exactly the reason why municipalities need healthy-sized reserve funds. If administered properly, they serve as a savings account, providing a safety net for unexpected expenses. This fit the bill.

Kudos to Town Council for proving that, on Hilton Head Island, environmental protection is more than just a talking point.

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