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Monday, December 28, 2009 - 2:32pm

Abandoned Boats Still A Vexing Problem

Chatham County is returning its salvage barge.

Officials had hoped the barge could help remove derelict boats from coastal waterways at little cost.

The Chatham-Savannah Police Department got the military barge for free last summer.

The police aimed to use it to remove a scurge of abandoned boats, a danger to marine traffic.

But the barge proved unstable and too expensive to repair and now officials are giving it back.

Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis says, there are few options for derelict boats.

"This is the state's job, but we were looking at it to see about protecting our citizens who use the waterways," Liakakis says.

The state doesn't have money to remove boats.

That leaves about 20 derelict vessels in Chatham County alone.

State officials estimate the number at about 100 for all of Georgia's 118-mile coastline.

Many abandoned vessels are shrimpers, relicts of a declining industry.

"We realize that in some cases that the boats are going to have to be removed," says Interim Savannah-Chatham County Police Chief Willie Lovett.

Lovett says, county officials are now considering hiring a private contractor to remove the boats.

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