Law enforcement plans to obtain boat capable of towing derelict vessels
The Santa Barbara Boat Task Force wasted no time Monday as members searched for ways to discuss and strategize a plan to address the issue of derelict boats off the coast of Santa Barbara city and county waters — and to put an end to a consistent pattern of boats washing up on city and county beaches.
But perhaps the most significant development didn’t occur until the next day.
That’s when Lt. Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office alerted fellow task force members that his department will be getting a boat capable of patrolling ocean waters and towing abandoned and derelict vessels at risk of washing ashore — even though it will take awhile to actually get the vessel.
“The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has submitted a request through the ‘Operation Stonegarden Homeland Security Grant Program’ for the purchase of a Sheriff’s Vessel,” Lt. Arnoldi wrote in an email to the group. “The vessel will be multi-purpose and serve as a patrol boat, underwater/dive rescue, code and ordinance enforcement, and the response to illegal smuggling of drugs and people onto the coastline.”
The proposed vessel will be between 35 and 40 feet in length and once received will remain on a trailer so it can be launched either in South County or North County, said Lt. Arnoldi, who is assigned to the Sheriff’s Coastal Patrol Bureau.
“The expected delivery and operation date is between one to two years with hopes that we will have the vessel operating in 1 1/2 years.
“I know that we are concerned about the upcoming storm season, but as you can see, this vessel will not be available for this coming season,” he said.
Harry Rabin, Heal the Ocean field organizer, called Lt. Arnoldi’s email “good news as it provides a needed asset for the county to be more on par with the city and their Harbor Patrol vessels. The current sheriff’s vessel has been non-operable.”
He described it as a “boost” to the progress already made at the meeting toward resolving disparity issues between the city of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County over how to handle and regulate errant boats.
At the meeting, Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse, another task force member, agreed to develop a memo of understanding between the city and county to address city Harbor Patrol response to derelict boats in county waters, with an assurance of costs covered.
Similarly, fellow task force member County Supervisor Das Williams agreed to begin discussions with Mayor Rowse to determine the possibility for moving forward with the memo of understanding.
“Our focusing and multiple MOUs are a good start,” Mr. Rabin said. “Regulating the ability to anchor is the big one we are pursuing.”
Mr. Rabin told the News-Press in a recent exclusive interview that beached boats have been washing ashore consistently for three years, the result of changing weather and shifting ocean sands that lose their grip on boat anchors. He said many boat owners refuse to pay fees to secure their vessels to solid mooring, and do not purchase insurance in the event of accidents.
He told task force members that even in 2010, 12 boats broke anchorage and came ashore.
Primary topics discussed at the meeting included:
— Insurance: Both the city and county are researching insurance mandate possibilities.
— Anchorage: Potential opportunity for a sonar system to be put in place to alert a response team to any boats moving outside a specified diameter. NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries currently has a similar system in place.
Task Force members agreed to hold a third meeting within the coming month.
In the meantime, Mr. Rabin said, “We have contingency plans that will hopefully avert more boats from making it to shore come more foul weather.”