Concerns growing over boats left behind in Pittsburgh’s rivers

There are growing concerns regarding boats left behind, abandoned and even sinking within Pittsburgh’s rivers.

“It looks like an eyesore down here,” said Tim Pardick, who we spotted strolling the North Shore’s riverwalk on Wednesday.

There, Channel 11 spotted a large boat tied up and left behind, not far from another smaller boat that’s started to sink into the river.

But the potential problems extend far beyond just an unappealing appearance.

“If this boat sank, then it would leak gasoline, it would leak oil, and a lot of garbage, stuff we see on the decks would then drift away,” said Capt. Evan Clark.

Clark, with the non-profit organization, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, met Channel 11 alongside one of the boats that’s been left behind along the North Shore.

“Some folks use this as a free marina,” he said.

With his own boat, Clark took us on a tour to view abandoned boats further up the Ohio River on Brunot Island. There, two are piled on top of one another, with all of the identifying markers having been scratched off. When a boat isn’t traceable to an owner, it’s officially considered “abandoned,” he said. Otherwise, a vessel is typically classified as “derelict.”

Clark told us that abandoned and derelict boats are also located at Davis and Neville islands, too.

“It’s a preventable problem but it’s going to take a lot of work until we get to that point.”

In the City of Pittsburgh, he said, there is no docking ordinance and no real enforcement.

While it isn’t lawful in Pennsylvania to let a boat remain vacant and sink, it isn’t so easy to hold owners accountable.

“The way the legislation is set up, and the interplay with all of the regulatory agencies, and between the water and the land, as I understand it, is kind of the source of a lot of issues that we run into,” he explained. “So, we’ve kind of created a loophole zone here.”

He said that the waters are covered by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which had not responded to Channel 11′s requests for comment at the time this article was published.

As for the North Shore walkway, that property belongs to the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh. Last month, SEA posted photographs of boats that had been left behind onto its Facebook page, seeking owners.  https://www.facebook.com/SEAPittsburgh/

On Wednesday, Doug Straley, Project Executive for the authority, told Channel 11 that two of the four original boats have since been moved. They’re in talks with a third owner, who is reportedly dealing with issues fixing the motor.

Straley said that it’s their policy that boats must be moved if it’s going to flood. The authority is looking at ways to make their policies more clear, for instance by adding signage along the riverwalk.

He said that SEA is working in coordination with the Fish and Boat Commission, as well as the City of Pittsburgh, to see about ways to improve the situation.

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