Derelict Vessel Program

Derelict Vessel Removal & Prevention Program
San Juan County is at the forefront of keeping the State’s waterways clear of derelict vessels and vessels of concern. Building on the Derelict Vessel Removal Program, San Juan County conceived and implemented the State’s first Derelict Vessel Prevention program which was funded by a grant from the Puget Sound Partnership. The Prevention Program acts like preventive medicine in identifying vessels which if not attended to, will end up in the Removal Program. The costs of salvage and demolition far outweigh the costs of preventing a vessel from sinking, polluting, or causing damage in the first place.

Derelict Vessel Removal Program
In 2002 Washington State Legislature passed the Derelict Vessel Act, which provides certain local and state agencies with the authority and funding for the removal and disposal of derelict and abandoned vessels from the waters of the state.

San Juan County’s Removal Program is closely coordinated with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who reimburses 90% of the costs of salvage, removal and demolition. On occasion, depending on the scope of the operation, the DNR will fund 100% of the costs.

DNR has created an inventory of derelict and abandoned vessels in the waters of Washington State. In addition, criteria have been developed to prioritize these vessels for removal. Because the funding of the derelict vessel removal account is limited each year, these criteria include consideration of environmental protection, threats to human health and safety, as well as threats to navigation, so the most damaging vessels can be removed first.

We need everyone’s help to identify and locate derelict vessels. If you have found a vessel that needs to be reported to the County, see Report a Vessel page.

Derelict Vessel Prevention Program
Our derelict vessel prevention program works in cooperation with, but separate from, the San Juan County Derelict Vessel Removal Program. The primary goal of the Prevention Program is to keep vessels of concern from becoming bigger problems that incur more costs and damage the environment. Estimates are that San Juan County responded to 19 vessels that had either sunk or were in trouble in 2012, costing taxpayers $76,586. After starting its prevention program in 2013, the county needed to remove only four vessels and dealt with 49 derelict vessels of concern at a total cost of $23,521 - less than one-third the 2012 expense. It is expected that 2014 will show a further drop in sunken vessels due to the Prevention Program. This represents a win-win result for both the taxpayers and the environment of Washington State.

San Juan County Expands Prevention Program to Other Counties
Since local efforts of identification and removal of derelict boats has been such a success in San Juan County, the Puget Sound Partnership in 2013 awarded the county more than $300,000 to develop and coordinate a Derelict Vessel Prevention program in other Puget Sound counties. The county was chosen to administer the money because it is the only county in the state, and perhaps the nation, to create a prevention program to identify vessels at risk before they become a hazard to navigation, a burden to taxpayers and a danger to the environment. The counties that received funds to join the San Juan County-led prevention program are Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce and Snohomish. Other counties have expressed interest in joining the program as well.

Cost of Removal & Prevention Programs & Donation Information
While the Department of Natural Resources reimburses San Juan County up to 90% of the costs of the Removal Program the other 10% has been funded 63% by community donations and the balance by the County. The costs of the Prevention Program, which have been covered to date almost in their entirety by the grant from the Puget Sound Partnership, (which will expire in June of 2015), will have to be made up by 100% community donations unless a another source of state or federal funding can be procured.

It is important that we continue this work to prevent derelict vessels from polluting our waters and becoming safety hazards. We are making every effort to secure state and federal funding to continue the program, but we need your help to make sure there is no gap in this service. Donations can be made to:
San Juan County Auditor
P.O. Box 638
Friday Harbor, WA 98250