Beaufort County officials are planning to begin removing abandoned boats and dock fragments from its shores this week. A storm surge caused by Hurricane Matthew left a substantial amount of debris in several locations around the county.
Beaufort County Deputy Administrator Josh Gruber said, “It looks like a number of the boats and large pieces of the dock[s] were washed up into the marsh."
There are some twenty vessels remaining at several sites including Palmetto Bay, Lady's Island, and Eddings Point. The Department of Natural Resources had left notices on remaining boats informing owners to remove them. The county has to pay for the removal of the ones still sitting in the marsh five months later.
Beaufort County contracted with AshBritt Environmental, a company that specializes in disaster recovery services, to find and extract the abandoned boats. They will go to a landfill.
Gruber said the need to remove all the debris from the shorelines isn't just for aesthetic reasons. With swimming season just around the corner, he said high tide could pose a safety issue. He worries swimmers could get hurt by moving debris.
Gruber said he’s glad the removal process is finally starting given the challenges along the way, "The biggest difficulty... was whose responsibility to clean up it was in the first place.” The debate was whether it’s the state or county’s responsibility.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote in a January opinion, “The answer to your specific question is that a coastal county, such as Beaufort County, possesses ‘legal responsibility’ with respect to debris cleanup in the tidelands areas between mean high and low water.”
Gruber said it will end up costing Beaufort County about $5 million. He said the county is looking to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the debris removal program.
There's still damage to some docks from the strong winds and storm surge from Hurricane Matthew that needs to be repaired.