Boat owners dumping derelict boats and leaving tax payers with the bill

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

EVERETT, Wash. —

Boat owners are running aground and running away, leaving taxpayers on the hook for huge disposal bills.

A 65-foot wooden boat sitting on its side has been an eyesore on the north side of the Everett marina since the owner ran aground on a mud flat last month. Fast river currents and floating debris are threatening to break it up and push it into the path of other vessels and kayakers. 

"You're gonna have to put a diver in the water and check that hull to make sure it isn't punched on the other side," said Snohomish County Sheriff Lt. Rodney Rochon. 

Officers say the Vashon Island owner sold the boat and was driving it upriver to the buyer when he ran aground. The new owner never took possession and the seller did not have insurance.Federal agencies and the Coast Guard are working on an expensive plan to tow the boat, including waste and fuel disposal, pumping out the boat and running heavy machinery to raise it. Taxpayers will get the bill. 

"I'd say if you can get this thing moved and out of here for under $50 (thousand) you got a bargain." 

Abandoned vessels are a growing problem across Puget Sound. Officers recently went out and tagged a dozen derelict boats around Everett alone.

Some are creating hazards around the second largest public marina on the west coast.

"The Snohomish River is a federal navigation channel so there's a lot of recreational vessels, commercial vessels as well as tug and barge operations," said the Port of Everett’s Lisa Lefeber.

The state Legislature is considering a law to make insurance mandatory on older boats. That may cover some costs but it doesn’t stop owners from dumping property and creating a safety hazard.

"Two weeks ago someone brought a boat in to this ramp here, tied it off to the dock and left it," said Rochon.

Crews hope to have the vessel that ran aground out of the water next week.