Derelict vessels removed from St. Johns River

Deputies say leaving vessels in river is a crime, dangerous

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Taking to the St. Johns River on Friday, a Clay County Sheriff's Office task force targeted some of the worst boats on the water, working one by one to remove them.

Some of the boats had been there for years, if not decades, and those behind the effort say they were long overdue to be gotten rid of.

"The issue here is some environmental concerns for the vessels that don't deteriorate that are going to be sitting here for who knows how long," said Chris Castelli, of the Sheriff's Office. "And some of these vessels are navigation hazards for this area, people that are coming through this area maybe at night and they're not lit. So that's an issue."

Over the years, for a slew of reasons, people have left their boats in the part of the river near Green Cove Springs. Deputies say dumping of derelict vessels is not only a nuisance, it's a crime and a danger to boaters.

So the Sheriff's Office, the commissioners, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed up to rid the waters of the problem. They hired contractors with cranes and barges to do the job.

"We literally are able to lift them directly up and not take them across any hazards and put them right onto the barge," said Wayne Konga, of South End Marine.

Deputies say the deed had to be done, and it should serve as a lesson to people that the river is not a dump.

"The persons responsible for the vessels are criminally liable as well as civilly liable to the taxpayers who have to fund the removal of these vessels," Castelli said.