ANNA MARIA – Mayor Dan Murphy is frustrated with the lack of action regarding the removal of a derelict sailboat southeast of the new City Pier.
The large, multi-hulled, partially sunken sailboat has been grounded in that location since mid-December.
On Thursday, Oct. 1, Murphy sent city commissioners and County Administrator Cheri Coryea an email update on the removal process that involves the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND).
“We still do not have a date for removal of the derelict vessel in the water near South Bay (Boulevard) and the pier. I have asked our lobbyist (Chip Case) to escalate this issue to Gov. DeSantis’ office for resolution. I feel an inquiry from his office is necessary to clear up a bureaucratic mess of no one being responsible for removal, and no sense of urgency among any of the officials involved,” Murphy’s email said.
Earlier that day, Murphy emailed FWC Public Information Officer Adam Brown in response to a phone conversation they had the previous day.
“Per our discussion, it is my understanding that although money has been allocated for this project, FWC still does not have a firm date as to when the derelict vessel can be removed. Please be advised and pass on to those involved in this process that this is a very serious matter and the vessel, since December of 2019, has continued to pose a threat to our pier and our beaches in the city of Anna Maria. It would appear that the vessel is now leaking oil and fuel into Tampa Bay and contaminating our beach. Please provide us with a firm date of removal,” Murphy said in his email to Brown.
When contacted by The Sun via email late Thursday afternoon, Brown wrote, “I received notification yesterday from the West Coast Inland Navigation District that a removal bid was accepted and approved by the FWC Division of Boating Waterways. A final approval from the FWC legal office is needed to allow WCIND to remove the vessel. Once we receive that approval, WCIND will contact us with a date and time of removal.
“Regarding the derelict vessel investigation, the FWC does not remove derelict vessels from area waterways. After a law enforcement investigation involving the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement or local law enforcement agency is complete, we work with municipalities and navigational districts to assist them with derelict vessel removal grant funding, but removal is ultimately performed by the area municipality or district, if they so choose, and if the vessel owner does not remove it themselves,” Brown’s email to The Sun said.
“The derelict vessel adjudication and removal process can be lengthy and can include multiple court hearings and court orders in order to finally remove a vessel from state waters. The FWC makes every effort to work with the vessel owners to have them either remove the vessel from state waters themselves or return it to non-derelict status to minimize the cost to taxpayers,” Brown wrote.
When previously contacted by The Sun on Sept. 16, Brown said, “I’ve reached out to our derelict vessel coordinator and was told the required 35-day waiting period necessary to give the registered owner an opportunity to remove the vessel will have elapsed on Friday, Sept. 18. With that being the case, we have also reached out to staff with WCIND (West Coast Inland Navigation District) and confirmed that they too are aware of this timeframe and are taking the proper steps to proceed with removal if the registered owners have not taken action before Friday. Sometimes the bidding process for removal and the removal itself can take some time, but I feel confident this is something that will take priority and I hope you will see movement beginning next week.”