By Madeline Jaskowiak

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 6:51 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:44 AM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – South Carolina had its first law enforcement-only mooring ball installed Wednesday at the Safe Harbor City Marina.

Abandoned and derelict boats have been a constant problem for coastal law enforcement agencies because they previously had no place to secure these vessels.

The mooring buoy was dropped between the Safe Harbor City Marina and the Tradd Street Coast Guard Station. It looks like a big orange ball attached to a 4,000-pound concrete slab that sits at the bottom of the ocean.

Boats breaking free from their anchors or dragging them across the boating channels during high winds have been a constant problem for coastal law enforcement agencies up and down the East Coast.

Officials with Charleston Harbor Police and Wounded Nature-Working Veterans say that the boat owner’s contact information is typically not immediately available when that free-floating boat is being secured, so they need somewhere to anchor it until the owner can be notified.

They also say that because the mooring ball is only serving as a temporary impound area, the goal is to have boats attached for no longer than 72 hours.

Until now, local law enforcement had nowhere to anchor these boats.

“One of the big problems we’ve had is securing these boats,” Wounded Nature-Working Veterans CEO Rudy Socha said. “Where are we going to secure it? Because we don’t want to secure it to private property in marinas in case the boats sink, which has happened, or damage to other boats or damage to the marina property.”

Due to our high tides, hurricanes, storms, and busy waterways here in Charleston, drifting derelict boats pose a danger to other boaters, property, and the environment.

“We have severe high tides here due to the moons, due to weather. And then we also have storms, obviously hurricanes. But we get strong summer storms that the winds can either break the anchor line or the anchor comes free and the boats will drift around,” Charleston Police Department Harbor Patrol Sgt. Chris Morrell said. “Once they start drifting around, they become a hazard to the boaters, to the marinas in the area, to our bridges and our infrastructure. And eventually, potentially, an issue to nature where they can go into the marshes and damage our critical marshes.”

More mooring buoys are expected to come.

A statement from Wounded Nature-Working Veterans states, “With the cooperation of adjoining property owners (Beach Company, City of Charleston, and the U.S. Coast Guard), Wounded Nature–Working Veterans was able to obtain permits for two mooring balls in this area from DHEC. Having Wounded Nature permitted to own the balls eliminates any possible inter-agency politics regarding the installation and usage of the balls.”

Socha says that the project was financed with private donations as well as state funding.

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