San Diego

Is This Your Boat? Navy Again Asks People to Retrieve Abandoned Boats From San Diego Shoreline

Each time the Navy has to remove a boat from their base -- which can in some cases take weeks -- it costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, the Navy says

Is this your boat? How about any of the more than a dozen boats that have washed up on Naval Base Coronado this winter?

The U.S. Navy says recent winter storms are dumping abandoned boats on their bases and the agency is again asking boat owners to remove them. 

Navy public affairs officer Sandy Duchac says each time the Navy has to remove a boat from their base -- which can in some cases take weeks -- it costs San Diego taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. 

The procedure is also a disruption to the Navy's daily operations.

When a boat washes ashore, the Navy starts by ensuring no one is aboard. Then a U.S. Coast Guard and a Navy environmental team conduct a sweep of the boat to ensure there are no hazardous materials. 

The boat must then sit there for 45 days after an owner has been notified or all attempts to locate the owner have been exhausted. Only then can the boat be demolished and removed, according to the Navy. 

In most cases, the boats do not have identifying information and even when they do, the Navy faces obstacles locating the owner due to privacy laws, Duchac said. 

During the days that the boat sits on the shoreline, a Navy sailor must monitor the wreckage to ensure it does not interfere with other people, operations or the Snowy Plover, an endangered bird that lives on the Coronado shoreline.

Naval Base Coronado Public Works staff estimates the entire procedure costs $20,000 per boat. 

Since January alone, the Navy has had to do this for 17 boats. They have responded to about 60 washed up boats since 2017 and it is not the first time the Navy has asked publicly for people to retrieve their boats

More than 90 tons of debris, including the vessels themselves, and 600 pounds of hazardous materials have been removed from the shoreline since 2017, Naval Base Coronado estimates. 

"The money to remove the boats comes out of the base's operating funds, which means those funds cannot be used for needed maintenance to aging infrastructure," Duchac said. 

In order to resolve the problem, Duchac urges the city of San Diego to consider requiring permits at Zuñiga Point, a jetty that extends from Coronado Island south towards the Pacific Ocean.

The jetty sits south of Naval Base Coronado and is the only place in San Diego that does not require a permit to anchor a boat. 

"Doing that will greatly reduce the number of abandoned and derelict boats that end up on our shore and become a taxpayer burden," Duchac said. 

The Navy said they have been working with the Port of San Diego, the U.S. Coast Guard and state Senator Toni Atkins to come up with a long-term solution.

In the meantime, Duchac said anyone who believes their abandoned boat may be washed ashore on the base can contact her at 619-545-8136.

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