Augusta has agreed to spend a few thousand dollars of city money to clean up some of the large debris in the Savannah River, including an abandoned houseboat at a dock in the Waters Edge community.
Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said City Administrator Fred Russell approved $6,000 and the use of a dumpster for the cleanup effort, which began on the boat this week.
Bonitatibus said the money should be enough to remove the houseboat and at least one other sunken vessel along the city’s riverfront, as well as other large items that present a hazard to navigation, such as large appliances that people have dumped in the river.
“There is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to get the other boat and a lot of the other debris,” she said. “A lot of this is really dependent on how much of a pain the boat at Waters Edge is.”
Bonitatibus said she sought approval to move ahead with the cleanup last week to take advantage of lower stream levels in the Savannah River. The Army Corps of Engineers lowered the river by three feet last week to accommodate contractors applying herbicide to aquatic weeds.
The lowered water level allowed workers to patch holes in the 45-foot houseboat, which was towed to the dock about two years ago and abandoned. Augusta Marina officials said it was last owned by Garcha Singh, who has never returned to claim the vessel.
“The lowered river provided opportunity to get in there and do some work when it was dry,” Bonitatibus said.
Holes were patched, floats were attached and pumps have been running, but the old hulk is still taking on water. Bonitatibus said more work will be needed to refloat the vessel.
The objective is to tow it downstream to the marina warehouse, where it can be pulled from the water and scrapped. It may take another week before that is possible, she said.
Russell said abandoned vessels are common in areas that have a public waterway.
“It’s a statewide problem,” he said. “We are doing this as a cleanup measure. It is a safety issue at this point.”
Bonitatibus said her goal is to complete the cleanup well before officials begin preparations for the Augusta Southern Nationals speedboat races July 20-22. If that doesn’t appear to be possible, she said, it will have to be done after the races.
In any case, she said, volunteers will be needed to help with the task. Those interested can get more information at the Savannah Riverkeeper Web site: www.savannahriverkeeper.org.