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City cracks down on liveaboards

Some harbor dwellers say they’re being ousted as ‘undesireable.’

The city is stepping up its crackdown on derelict boats, including a handful occupied by island liveaboards.

“This is about the condition of the vessel rather than who is staying aboard,” said city Harbormaster Tami Allen, who recently listed nine vessels on the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

“Some of these vessels don’t run or don’t have a mast or haven’t been hauled-out (for maintenance) for six to 10 years. They need to be brought up to an operable condition.”

Allen estimates about half the vessels under consideration for removal serve as homes for full-time Eagle Harbor residents and at least one family.

Some of the vessels are already under the city’s legal custody, while a few have until July 1 to comply or are in the process of appealing.

While none of the affected liveaboards could be reached for comment, longtime Eagle Harbor liveaboard Ryan Landworth said the removal program is being used to clear the harbor of an “visual aesthetic” disliked by wealthier shore residents.

“This is an underhanded method of getting rid of undesirable (people) in our community,” he said. “Yet, it’s an aesthetic and a lifestyle that’s part of our history – a colorful and flavorful part.”

In addition to the nine vessels under consideration, six underwent the removal program this year.

Some were impounded and destroyed, while others were voluntarily removed by owners.

The City Council in April increased the vessel removal program’s operating budget by almost 17 times its previous annual level, swelling the typical outlay from $10,000 to $166,000 after assurances that a new state law will reimburse the city 90 percent of the collection and disposal costs.

Allen said it is in the interest of liveaboards and boat owners to put boats in working order before the city’s open water marina is finalized by the state next year.

The marina, as specified in the city’s Anchoring and Mooring Plan, would allow liveaboards to remain in a portion of Eagle Harbor under a new set of fees and regulations.

The plan is the first of its kind in the state and is aimed at striking a balance between the concerns of liveaboards, the state Department of Natural Resources and Eagle Harbor’s shoreline residents.

Some liveaboards plan to challenge the legality of such a program, charging that the the marina is unconstitutional, violates civil rights, oversteps city jurisdiction and failed to comply with legal procedures.

But Allen believes the open water marina will gain final approval by the state within a year.

Those intending to stay in the inner harbor will have to prove their vessels are operable.

Allen hopes the derelict notices will spur boat owners and liveaboards to repair ailing vessels before the open water marina is established.

“This is a head start to go now and get the haul-out and the maintenance done,” she said. “It’s a disservice to them and the city if they sink and we have to clean it up.”

But Landworth argues that many liveaboards can’t afford the haul-out and maintenance fees necessary to comply with government regulations.

He also believes the city has not adequately assessed the condition of many harbor vessels, which he said are well built and only need hull maintenance every two decades.

Allen said she understands the budgetary limitations of many inner-harbor residents.

She is urging island residents to help liveaboards with towing, maintenance or by sponsoring marina moorage or land storage while a vessel is repaired.

To volunteer services, contact Allen at tallen@ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us.

Community Events, April 2014

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