One of the seven boats that have sunk in the Hoquiam River over the last two-plus years will be removed soon at “no direct cost” to citizens, according to Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff.
The Lady Grace, which sank March 2, 2018, will be removed at the expense of the Department of Natural Resources’ Derelict Vessel Removal Program, said Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay. The mast of the vessel has been visible above the surface of the river since shortly after it sank.
“That eyesore of a boat is coming out of the river soon,” said Dickhoff on social media Sunday. “Likely the most frustrating issue we have navigated in my four years as mayor, it will be so satisfying to get this done.”
Through the program, a derelict vessel can be seized under state law by an authorized public entity – in this case the City of Hoquiam – 30 days after notice of seizure is posted on the Department of Natural Resources website. The Lady Grace was posted Oct. 28. If the vessel’s owner, listed as John Simons Jr., takes no action, the city will take custody of the Lady Grace Nov. 25. Simons Jr. by law has 30 days from the seizure date to appeal the custody process.
According to an email sent to Shay by Jerry Farmer with the Derelict Vessel Removal Program, once the city has gained custody of the Lady Grace, the city “can make a risk management decision in either removing and storing the vessel until the appeal date or just remove and destroy the vessel. Provided you followed the custody process, you will not be liable for any damages to the vessel even if the owner appeals the custody process.”
The City of Hoquiam will be responsible for securing a contractor for the removal and disposal of the vessel and will pay the up-front cost, but will be reimbursed 100% by the Derelict Vessel Disposal Program, said Shay. Normally the program pays up to 90%.
“This is a special case,” said program manager Troy Wood. “The program received one-time funding for large vessel removal from the Legislature and this one qualifies for that. Because when that account receives special one-time funding those funds can be used up to 100 percent of the cost of removal.”
The program is in contact with the city to assist in finding a contractor for removal. “We give them options so they can choose one based on which is best for the city,” said Wood.
The program allows the city to attempt cost recovery for the removal of the vessel from the vessel’s owner, in this case Simons Jr. If the city is unable to do so, the program reimburses the city for the removal and the Department of Natural Resources will attempt to recover the costs from the vessel owner, said Wood.
The Derelict Vessel Disposal Program is funded from a $2 surcharge on annual vessel registration fees and the $5 surcharge on the foreign vessel identification document. The total budget for the program for the 2019-21 biennium is $2.5 million.
Since July 5, 2017, seven vessels have sunk in the river on property owned by Mart Liikane at 200 Monroe Street, just upriver and on the same side of the river as the Hum Dinger drive-in. The first was the Donna, followed by the Perwyn July 26; the Two Sisters Nov. 6, 2017; the Lady Grace; two unnamed vessels Oct. 17, 2018; and a former Navy patrol boat Dec. 25, 2018.
Each incident prompted a response from the Department of Ecology Spills Program to contain and, when possible, remove the oil and fuel leaking from the vessels.
Simons Jr. is also listed as the last known owner of the Perwyn. In late January of this year, the Department of Ecology took action against Simons Jr., including a $1,500 penalty for the Perwyn sinking and spill, a $2,000 penalty for the Lady Grace sinking and spill, and $29,022.85 to reimburse the Department of Ecology’s expenses in responding to the Lady Grace. Also levied were “resource damage assessments,” $2,360.24 for the Perwyn and more than $10,100 for the Lady Grace.
Because the Lady Grace is on city-owned tidelands it qualified for removal through the Department of Natural Resources Derelict Vessel Removal Program. Because the other sunken vessels are on tidelands owned by Liikane, they don’t qualify for the program because they are there with the permission of the landowner, explained Wood. The removal and disposal of these vessels is up to the property owner.
Wood said the Derelict Vessel Removal Program is constantly evolving, with attempts to streamline the process so more derelict vessels can be removed.
“The Department of Natural Resources always wants to protect aquatic environments and wants to remove all these vessels out of our waters,” said Wood. “Unfortunately, we have limited resources so we have to prioritize where to spend those funds.”
Wood said program staff would be happy to help anyone with questions about the program. The best way is by email, email@example.com.