At least five vessels are scheduled to be removed from the St. Johns River on Friday as part of an ongoing effort to remove derelict boats from the waterway.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit has organized a task force to deal with the problem of abandoned vessels in the St. Johns. The task force includes the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Clay County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chris Castelli says Florida statutes hold the registered owner of the vessel responsible for its condition. He says often when notifying an owner of their boat's at-risk condition they claim to have sold the boat. But unless the proper paperwork transferring ownership has been filed with the state, the owner of record is responsible.
The task force has sought out the people responsible for leaving their boats in a public waterway. The owners have been charge with a first degree misdemeanor. Castelli says they will also have to reimburse Clay County for the costs connected to removing their vessels.
Florida State College at Jacksonville has helped the Department of Fish and Wildlife produce a video about the problem of derelict vessels in Florida waters in an attempt to educate boat owners.