Monroe County Marine Resources is hosting three public outreach meetings to present information about the free Vessel Turn-In Program for end-of-life boats in the keys.
The meetings all begin at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, July 18: Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Avenue, Key West
Wednesday, July 19: Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Highway, Key Largo
Thursday, July 20: Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon
Monroe County’s Marine Resources Office, in coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has developed a pilot Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP) for the Florida Keys. The VTIP program is designed to prevent anchored vessels in poor condition – but still floating – from becoming derelict or abandoned. Once boats reach the derelict or abandoned stage, they can harm and pollute the marine habitat, create navigation hazards and usually are more expensive to remove and dispose.
The VTIP program is free for eligible boat owners (based on funding availability) who would like to properly dispose of their anchored “end-of-life” boats that are between 16-40 feet long and who do not have the financial resources to pay for removal and disposal. Boat owners who abandon or intentionally sink their vessels could be subject to fines and possible jail time.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funds the program through grant agreements by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and FWC.
Similar Vessel Turn-In Programs have been implemented in California, Oregon and Washington and have shown to reduce the number of derelict and abandoned vessels. Monroe County, which has the most derelict vessels in Florida, was chosen for the state’s pilot program. If proven successful, the program may be expanded to other coastal areas of Florida.
The Marine Resources Office removes about 60 to 80 derelict vessels each year at an average annual cost of $160,000 to $180,000 paid from Boating Improvement Funds. In 2016, the County spent $283,000 on derelict vessel removal thanks to an increase in law enforcement effort and available grant funding.
The VTIP grant provides $100,500 in funding for vessels disposals during the first year of an expected five-year program. For this first year, there will be one event in the fall during which approved boat owners can turn in their vessels. County Marine Resources staff estimates about 20-25 vessels – depending upon the size and condition – could be disposed of during this event.
Monroe County will be holding three public outreach meetings in July to provide information about the program, describe eligibility requirements and discuss the application process. Boaters are encouraged to attend to learn more about the VTIP opportunity and provide public input.
Information is also available on the County website www.monroecounty-fl.gov/VTIP and will be distributed to marinas and other areas frequented by mariners.