Memorandum 14-034 Alaska Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Task Force

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Memorandum 14-034




DATE:                  FEBRUARY 18, 2014



On February 6, 2014, I attended the first Ad-Hoc meeting of the Alaska Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Task Force (ADV), located in the Atwood building in Anchorage.  I was asked by involved members to represent the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators, and the City of Homer in this effort.  Rachel Lord of Cook Inletkeepers worked to organize the meeting; pulling all the background information together, setting the agenda, and running the meeting.

There were several agencies represented at the meeting:

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC): Spill Prevention and Response
Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR): Division of Mining Land and Water
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF): Ports and Harbors
Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G): Habitat Anchorage
Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators (AAHPA)
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Marine Debris and Fisheries Restoration Center
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
Cook Inletkeeper
Alaska Clean Harbors
Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot

The attorney office offered the ADV Task Force legal advice pro–bono.  Holly Wells, Mitchi McNabb, and Adam Cook were available at the meeting to help the group with any legal advice that came up throughout the day.

There was an aggressive schedule set for the day, and Rachel Lord did a great job of keeping us to the agenda.  It was very interesting to hear the attendees explain their roles and responsibilities when it comes to ADV’s.  I thought it particularly interesting to see the interchange of responsibilities that occurs between USCG and ADNR after a vessel has been determined to be free of hazardous material and or pollutants; I recognized it as another version of the “ADV hot potato” management plan that harbormasters play all around the coast.

Alaska has a thinking error when it comes to boats.  We act as though they will last forever knowing full well they do not.  For vessels, there is no end-of-life plan, no approved method of disposal.  The harbors in this state are organizing, sharing information, and working to address the ADV problem.  Many cities in the Alaska Central Gulf use the same attorneys that Homer uses.

As part of my role in this meeting, I described the roles and responsibilities of Alaska Harbormasters in regards to ADV’s.  I explained how we as harbormasters and port administrators manage space that is used for mooring boats, how that space was expensive to create, and how that space is expensive to maintain.  A harbor is not a museum or a warehouse for get-to-it-someday projects, and harbors are not the solution to the ADV problem.  I further explained that, as harbormasters, we are lucky to have a clearly defined space to watch over and the ability to work with our councils to establish laws to protect our communities from the burdens of ADV’s.  Harbor staff is constantly challenged by this issue throughout the state.  I see it as a real threat to our communities from both an environmental and financial standpoint.

I shared with the task force what Homer’s experience with this subject has been, and how we worked to create new code and policies to give the harbor staff the tools they need to help address this threat.  Tools such as the title for the tidelands that clearly defines our boundaries, an underway policy, a denial of access policy, and a supplemental moorage agreement for vessels of concern: all of these plus trained staff to watch over our interests 24/7.

From what I gathered from this meeting, as of yet, neither the State nor the Federal Government have taken proactive steps towards this problem.  I feel a bit more appreciative of our situation when comparatively shown the ADV challenges certain agencies face who are tasked with keeping watch over thousands of miles of Alaskan coastline, are understaffed, have no access control, and are a very low priority from a budget standpoint.  To date, the response to ADV problems is only reactionary, and the different agency representatives voiced frustration over how millions of dollars are spent after an incident involving just one ADV.  These agencies see how a proactive approach would spare the taxpayers and prevent the resulting environmental damage from an avoidable ADV causality incident.

The take-away action item is that ADNR will work with their IT staff to create a database for ADV’s in Alaska.  They will use the Washington ADV reporting form that Rachel Lord provided them as a template.

A tentative meeting was scheduled for some time in May.  We will have an agenda-setting teleconference prior to the agreed meeting date.


Informational item


Attached:         Alaska Ad-Hoc Abandoned & Derelict Vessel Task Force Meeting Agenda