BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — At the mouth of Weeks Bay in South Baldwin County, a curtain of fog lifts and reveals a sailboat that is slowly being claimed by the water. In Lillian, a center console boat sits just below the surface of Perdido Bay. In Bon Secour, a sailboat that was abandoned two years ago has begun drifting into the middle of Bon Secour River.
“If you are not going to use it anymore, sell it, donate it,” says boater Michael Hayes. “There’s somebody out there that could use it I’m sure and would love to have it.”
A law passed in 2018 allows ALEA, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, to remove the boats designated as derelict or abandoned, but the law was never funded. The cost of removing the boats can run into thousands of dollars.
Now, State Senator Chris Elliott says money is on the way in the form of a grant from the federal government. “It is the state’s hope ALEA will get this grant and start removing over 45 identified, geo-located vessels that are out there that we know we need to get rid of.”
Also, starting this year, $80,000 annually from the State Department of Conservation has been designated for the removal of boats. “That funding is in the bank account of the county commission right now, ready to go,” says Elliott.
For folks like Penny Eilert who has a sailboat now threatening her property, it can’t happen soon enough. “I would like some action.”
“It’s moving at the speed of government but the end is near,” says Elliott. “The funding is coming from the feds and then we’ve secured the annualized funding to make sure we fix the problem but stay on top of it moving forward.”
It’s a problem that didn’t happen overnight but has taken longer than needed to remedy according to Elliott.
That grant money from the federal government is expected soon and then it’s just a matter of hiring a contractor to go out and remove those 45 boats in Baldwin and Mobile counties.