San Diego Lifeguards are proposing a time limit for boaters who wish to anchor off San Diego’s North Island in order to resolve the abandoned boat crisis caused mostly by Mexican smugglers, bringing drugs and people into the U.S. illegally.
The San Diego Tribune reports:
Drug smugglers, people trying to avoid homelessness and boat owners who can’t afford maintenance costs have been more frequently abandoning vessels in the sometimes choppy waters, lifeguard and Navy officials say.
The boats often break apart during rainstorms or high surf, sometimes emitting fuel and hazardous materials into the ocean and onto the beach. Demolition and clean-up costs can also be significant when boats wash ashore.
Sixty-one abandoned vessels have sunk, been beached or broken apart in the last seven years, with 21 of those incidents happening since January, officials said.
City lifeguards are proposing a new law that would limit anchoring in the area to two hours maximum, which would help prevent the problem but allow enough time for boaters who anchor there to fish, hunt for lobsters or snorkel.
“We really believe this will help go a long way in preventing these types of problems with our environment and these types of clean-ups,” Lifeguard Chief Rick Wurts said. “It’s important to note we are not asking for it to be a ‘no anchorage’ area at all because a lot of people like to go down there.”
The proposed law, which would eliminate one of the last free places to anchor or moor a boat in the San Diego area, is further complicated by complex jurisdictional boundaries controlled by the Navy, the city and the port of San Diego.
The burden to clean up and remove the damaged boat falls mostly on the Navy—because the boats wash up onto the shore of North Island Naval Air Station—who reportedly says the cost to remove and dispose of each vessel is between $2,500 and $50,000.
The city of San Diego, which has jurisdiction over the waters off the military base, require the new law in order to issue tickets to vessels there because there are currently no laws prohibiting anchorage in the Pacific Ocean, Wurts reportedly told the Tribune.
On occasion, vessels will break apart and leak fuel into the water, causing an expensive hazmat clean up. Sometimes it’s a California regulation that prevents taking action. For part of the year, this type of work is prohibited by an environmental law put in place to protect a bird called the California least tern.
Some boats are abandoned by those on the verge of homeless, who’ve tried living on their boat, but could not sustain the dock rent.
Those abandoned by drug smugglers, usually get removed quickly by U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement because they can be used as evidence in smuggling cases.
The abandoned boat crisis is adding to international tensions as San Diego is left unreimbursed for cleaning up unwanted pollution–reminiscent of the hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage that crossed the border illegally and contaminated San Diego beaches earlier this year.