Abandoned and derelict boats are a growing problem in local waters. Photos: Ed Johnson, KP News

There is no missing it at low tide while driving across the Purdy Spit. For months, the sight of the upturned hull of a sunken sailboat has generated the same question: Just who is responsible for removing the sunken vessel and what about the other seemingly abandoned boats anchored just offshore? 

Parks Specialist Bret Burgess of Pierce County Parks and Recreation is the person responsible for maintenance of the park at the Purdy Sand Spit and is working with the Department of Natural Resources Derelict Vessel Program to resolve the problem. 

“The removal of the sunken vessel is now out to bid,” Burgess said in an email to KP News. “Until the bid has been awarded, a firm timeline for removal cannot be set.” Burgess also said he thought the contractor would begin the removal sometime in June. 

The Purdy Spit is an unimproved public beach sandwiched between a busy State Route 302 and a half-mile of shoreline along Henderson Bay. The park is an especially popular destination for beachcombers, sun worshipers, waders and windsurfers. With a boat launch conveniently located on the Wauna side of the park, the waters regularly host people on sailboards, water skis and jet skis. During summer it’s fairly common to see a solid line of cars parked alongside SR-302, which sits above the 7.5 acres of beach below. 

Purdy resident Sandy Arndt, who lives within sight of the park, said she made her first calls to report the illegal boat mooring four years ago, long before the sunken sailboat appeared. “I’ve called Olympia and have been passed around from department to department, even hearing, ‘Oh yes, we’ve received a number of complaints about that,’ but so far nothing has changed, nothing has been done about it,” she said. 

“We’ve lived here for 26 years and can testify there are more people than ever using that beach,” Arndt said. “It’s hard to grasp that nobody seems to care about the dangers to navigation or the health of our marine environment.”

Part of the problem for concerned citizens is determining which particular government agency is responsible in an area where there is considerable overlap depending on the circumstances. 

“It can be a frustrating experience simply trying to do the right thing,” Arndt said. 

The Washington State Legislature passed the Derelict Vessel Act in 2002. The act provides certain local and state agencies with the authority to remove and dispose of abandoned vessels that pose a threat to health, safety or navigation. DNR maintains an inventory of derelict and abandoned boats in Washington waters, assigning priority for removal to the most dangerous vessels first. 

According to the DNR website, the agency needs everyone’s help to identify and locate derelict vessels. A reporting form is available for download at www.dnr.wa.gov under Puget Sound, Lakes and Rivers.

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