LETTER TO THE EDITOR: FWC Extends Deadline for Exemptions for Insurmountable Vessels After Hurricane Ian

To the editor:

After Hurricane Ian hit, boat owners were given a 45-day grace period to bring derelict boats into compliance or remove them from state waters. The grace period ended on November 15. The number of boats impacted is significant and many residents are still assessing the damage. With these factors in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has decided to extend the deadline for acceptance of the waiver until the end of December.

Owners are still encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their boat and provide the safest possible method for the boat and the environment. Vessel owners may release ownership of a displaced vessel through the waiver process if they do not have the resources to salvage or remove the vessel from abandoned status on their own. The FWC will then facilitate the removal and destruction of the vessel, and the owners will not be charged for removal costs. This process can be started by contacting the FWC through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at (850) 488-5600 and requesting the surrender of a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the exemption process and facilitate the potential transfer of ownership.

Over 4,000 vessels have been assessed and over 500 of the vessels assessed are derelict. The number is expected to change as more vessels are discovered and assessed or vessels are recalled by owners or insurance companies. If your vessel is missing or you have located a vessel in state waters displaced by the hurricane, report it to the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline.

The Division of Emergency Management (DEM) has assumed the role of coordinating the removal and disposal of vessels investigated by the FWC in Lee and Charlotte counties. DEM has worked closely with the FWC, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard, and local governments to identify and remove debris from waterways and upland private and commercial properties. The newly created State Debris Cleanup Program will assist Hurricane Ian survivors with the removal of displaced and abandoned titled property. Residents may request removal of debris, including vehicles, boats, motorcycles, trailers, and ATVs. To make a request, visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to report debris. For additional information on Hurricane Ian and updates from the county, visit leegov.com/storm.

Ashlee Sklute

FWC main office

tallahassee

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