By ecoRI News staff
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recently awarded grants totaling $29,678 to two communities to fund removal of abandoned vessels from local waters.
The grants, awarded to the town of Portsmouth and the Watch Hill Fire District in Westerly, are the latest in Rhode Island’s ongoing efforts to support the clean up of marine debris that may threaten the environment and navigational safety.
“Marine refuse and, in particular, abandoned vessels pose a significant threat to the health of our waters and the safe passage of boaters,” DEM director Janet Coit said. “Supporting efforts to remove obstructions is critical to the vitality of our waterways.”
The town of Portsmouth received $23,400 for the removal of an abandoned vessel in waters off Blue Bill Cove. The Watch Hill Fire District received $6,278 to fund removal of a second vessel on the shoreline of the Napatree Point Conservation Area — the boat had been destroyed by fire.
The grants were funded through the Rhode Island Derelict and Abandoned Vessel and Obstruction Removal Account. In 2012, this account, funded by a surcharge on boat registration fees, was established to assist harbormasters and other authorized public entities in covering the costs associated with removal, disposal and/or sale of derelict and abandoned vessels and other obstructions.
The law also established a commission to oversee grant recommendations. The commission is chaired by DEM, with members including the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, Save The Bay, Rhode Island Harbormaster’s Association, Coastal Resources Management Council and the attorney general’s office.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with priority given to emergency cases. Non-emergency applications are considered bi-annually.