A massive cleanup effort is currently underway along the North Carolina coast that is targeting the removal of both small and large scale debris that resulted from Hurricane Florence.
The North Carolina General Assembly allocated $400,000 to North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to partner with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to clean up marine debris that fierce winds and waves of the storm dumped along coastal waters.
As of June 2019, the federation’s central region is finished with Phase II of the three-phase marine debris cleanup project. Phase II of the project was focused on heavy wooden debris pickup and was completed on June 13. It was a nine week clean-up effort by a crew of fishermen and women and locals covering 21 miles of islands along the intracoastal waterway near Swansboro from marker 34- 55. A total of 225,360lbs or 112.68 tons of wooden debris was picked up along with three abandoned and derelict vessels. This phase of the clean-up effort was quite strenuous as most of the wooden debris was pushed up into the maritime forests, marsh and shrubs. In order to maintain the marsh and not cause disturbance to the surrounding vegetation, the crew members hauled out wood by hand to piles that the contractor could reach with heavy equipment from the waterway. Accompany this with the heat of summer, bugs and snakes, the crew worked diligently and did a fantastic job. The central region is now in Phase III clean-up efforts that will focus on abandoned and derelict vessels.
The Southeast field crew — a four person crew using a 24′ Carolina Skiff — started working on April 29, 2019. They started in the lower New River and are now working in Stump Sound. As of June 27 they had picked up 38.2 tons (76,400 lbs) of wooden debris, trash, tires and other debris. This has all been done by hand.
As of May 2019, the federation’s central region has moved into Phase II of the three-phase marine debris cleanup project. Phase II is primarily focused on collecting the heavy wooden debris left over from Hurricane Florence. The debris being collected includes pressure treated wood, docks, pilings, stairs and railings.
The central region is in the fifth week of the project and has collected about 90,000 lbs. of wooden debris. Phase II should conclude at the end of the month and the final phase will begin which will remove derelict and abandoned vessels from the waterways.
To date, the federation’s central region collected 12.5 tons of trash by hand during the first phase and 45 tons of wooden debris by boat during the second phase. The federation’s southeast region has also begun Phase I of their marine debris cleanup. During the first phase, the southeast office has collected 9 tons of trash by hand. In total, the federation has collected 66.5 tons of marine debris displaced by Hurricane Florence in just four months!
After only a couple of months, third party contractors have removed over 25,000 pounds of debris from estuaries in Carteret and Onslow counties. These contractors were commercial fishers and other local residents hired at a daily rate to remove debris by hand.
Debris items collected include plastic bottles, Styrofoam pieces, aluminum cans, food containers and an assortment of consumer and household debris.
Several volunteer groups, including the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, community volunteers and students from East Carolina University, also assisted in removing debris by hand.
From the beginning of February 2019 through the end of March 2019, 26,805 pounds of marine debris have been removed by both the work crew and volunteers.
Beginning in April, a local marine contractor, Eric Pake Jr. Construction, Inc., began mechanically removing large and heavy dock debris as well as several abandoned boats scattered throughout Bogue Sound.
The federation is now working to secure additional funding to expand the project to surrounding counties that were affected by Hurricane Florence and are working with the N. C. Division of Coastal Management to help the state secure additional federal assistance to expand the cleanup effort and to remove abandoned boats in coastal waters from Hyde County to New Hanover County.
Photos by Logan Prochaska