This ketch is one of as many as a dozen derelict boats in Coral Harbor that may get removed under a federal grant awarded to the Coral Bay Community Council.
CORAL BAY — About six months after obtaining a federal grant worth a total of $140,000 — and after receiving no responses from an initial advertisement for bids — Coral Bay Community Council officials expect to have a contractor begin removing derelict vessels from the harbor in the next few months.
“We have put the Derelict Vessel Removal project back out to bid this month using the list of known salvage contractors here in the Virgin Islands,” said CBCC President Sharon Coldren. “We have gotten significant interest in bidding this time around and we are very encouraged that this time we will have bidders.”
CBCC was one of 11 groups from across the country that was selected to receive a community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant last year. The grant consists of $90,000 in funding from NOAA with the remaining $50,000 raised through community donations and volunteer hours.
CBCC’s plan is to hire a salvage contractor to remove between six and 12 of the numerous derelict vessels in Coral Bay inner harbor that have been grounded, beached or sunk since Hurricane Hugo blew through the area almost 25 years ago.
“Removal of these vessels will reduce the number of hazards within shallow water and protect the often battered mangroves and abraded seagrass,” according to information from NOAA.
In addition to the derelict vessel removal, the program also consists of volunteer shoreline and mangrove clean-up efforts and the creation of a marine debris reduction and monitoring program. After receiving the grant, CBCC issued an advertisement for bids over the 2014 Holiday season which netted zero responses.
After talking with salvage contractors, CBCC officials are now confident they will receive positive responses about the project, according to Coldren.
“Originally we put the bid out over the holidays with the anticipation of getting bid responses in January, but we had no responses,” Coldren said. “We took a few months to try to determine why we weren’t getting responses and we communicated with various salvage contractors. They’ve indicated that they understand the project better and are willing to bid this time around.”
“This time around we were able to change a few aspects of the project in order to make it more attractive,” she said.
Bid responses are due by Tuesday, May 5, and Coldren expects CBCC will select a contractor for the marine debris removal project by the end of the month.
“We hope to be in a position to select a contractor in the month of May and get started not too long after that,” said Coldren. “There are about a dozen vessels that we’d like to get removed and we anticipate that it will take more than one effort partly because a few of the boats are going to be much more difficult to remove than the rest.”
“Several of the large derelict vessels that are in the extreme shallows, less than two feet of water, are probably going to be much more difficult to remove without doing environmental damage to the seagrass in the process,” said the CBCC president.
In addition to removing sunken and grounded derelict vessels, CBCC is offering to remove any floating abandoned vessels as well, Coldren explained.
“It’s much cheaper to remove an abandoned vessel while it is still floating than after is sinks,” she said. “If someone owns an abandoned boat that they don’t want to own anymore, we can have their boats included in this vessel removal.”
While expecting to receive bids this week, CBCC official continue accepting donations to help reach the required $50,000 matching fund for the NOAA Marine Debris Removal Grant, Coldren added.
“This is the time for donors to come forward with pledges of cash donations,” she said. “If anyone is willing to do that, we can move faster to get all of these boats out of the harbor.”
Any abandoned vessel that has salvage value will add to that required $50,000 matching fund, explained the CBCC president.
“If anyone wants to donate a boat that has some monetary value to this effort, that would be considered a donation to the project and count as part of the matching fund donations,” she said.
CBCC is partnering with the Coral Bay Yacht Club for this project and the two groups will host a shoreline and water-based clean-up in May.
“Prior to the contractor coming in, we will do another volunteer clean up along the shoreline, in the mangroves and in the water to remove small debris and label larger debris that can only be removed from the shallows by the contractor,” said Coldren.
The plan is to remove as much debris from Coral Bay harbor as possible before the height of hurricane season, Coldren explained.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a significant amount of work done before high hurricane season,” she said. “We’re asking people to identify the boats that they have control over now that might go up during a hurricane and we can remove them before a storm.”
For more information about CBCC’s Marine Debris Removal project or to make a donation, check out www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org or call (340) 776-2099.