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Everett couple gives state $50,000 to help remove derelict vessels

There are hundreds of derelict vessels that the Washington Department of Natural Resources is working to remove from state waterways.

EVERETT, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working alongside Snohomish County to remove a half-dozen so-called “derelict vessels” from waterways near Everett.

The issue is not new, and the problem only becomes more difficult the longer time passes. Removing abandoned boats from the water is a slow and costly process; it can often take years.

Beached on the shore of Port Gardner near Everett is a boat with its glory days behind it.

“They’re an eyesore for the community, and they’re all up and down the river and the sloughs,” said longtime Everett resident Phil Johnson.

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The derelict vessels are abandoned faster than the DNR can remove them from the water. The department has been tasked with the issue since 2012.

Abandoned boats that are only partially submerged pose a hidden hazard for boaters during high tide, while all of the derelict vessels pose a threat to the environment.

“The water is Everett’s lifeblood, as far as I’m concerned, so much of its community and industry is based on it,” said Kelly Johnson.

Phil and Kelly Johnson of Everett are fed up with the slow pace and recently put up $50,000 to help the DNR and the county remove boats that are no longer seaworthy and have long been abandoned by their owners.

“In order to preserve and enhance the health of the ecosystem, we have to stop this from happening in the first place,” explained Kelly Johnson. “And by getting the boats out of the water, that’s the first best step and then trying very hard to mitigate other boats from being abandoned, from being left derelict.”

In September 2019, an abandoned, sinking fishing vessel was removed from Snohomish County waters after four years.

While DNR said the money the Johnsons donated would make a difference, the boats they’re removing from the water represent just six of the hundreds that the DNR has deemed derelict this year alone.

The owner of the boat is supposed to cover the charge. But according to the DNR, that happens less than 1% of the time. The rest of the time, the taxpayer covers the cost.