Officials yanked the equivalent of an armada from the Texas coast after Hurricane Harvey.
Of the 676 boats that sank in state waters in late August, 77 sank in local ports from Seadrift to Palacios, said Robb Muil, the area manager for oil prevention and response for the Texas General Land Office.
Muil told the Port Commission of Port Lavaca on Tuesday that the GLO yanked the final boat from its watery grave Nov. 11. He said in the process, the GLO, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency prevented almost 60,000 gallons of hazardous material from spilling.
In the Crossroads, the GLO was responsible for 26 surrendered boats.
Most of the boats that sank were used for pleasure, but some belonged to shrimp and oyster fishers, said Rhonda Cummins, the Texas Sea Grant agent for Calhoun County.
Cummins asked the Formosa Plastics Corporation and Bishop Brendan Cahill of the Diocese of Victoria for $10,000 to rent an 80-ton crane to pick up four sunken boats from the Harbor of Refuge and one boat that was grounded.
Both came through with the money, but Cummins returned Cahill's check.
"To me, Bishop Cahill gave from his heart, and I knew Formosa gave out of their excess," Cummins said. "Ten thousand dollars from Formosa is not a lot of money, and I didn't need a lot of money. I just needed enough money. I just needed enough to help those guys who didn't have anybody else."
Cummins also helped untangle the knot that the Category 4 hurricane created at the Nautical Landings Marina, where she was once a tenant.
She helped Muil and Port Lavaca Public Works Director Oscar Pena track down boat owners in person, by phone or by certified mail.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the GLO $40 million for this task.
Muil said that so far, the GLO has spent about $29 million, "so we're well within budget."
The boats the GLO picked up were taken to Cove Harbor Marina in Rockport. Muil, who returned to his hometown of Olivia days after Harvey made landfall, said if they aren't claimed within 21 days, the boats will be destroyed. He stressed the GLO is not making any profit off the recovery project and has gone above and beyond, even retrieving a funeral urn off one boat for a family.
"The people who participated in this vessel removal program are members of the community," GLO press secretary Brittany Eck said, "so this is something that I know that they are very proud to participate in ... This program is also vital to getting the coast back to business by making the waters navigable again."
Day 1: Here comes Harvey
Day 2: Brace yourself
Day 3: 'Prayers protect us'
Day 5: 'At least God let us live'
Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'
Day 10: The Long Road Ahead (w/video)
Day 12: For some, normal still far away
Day 15: FEMA frustrates Harvey victims
Day 16: Displaced and in disarray
Day 18: Nature interrupted (w/video)
Day 19: 'It was like we had been bombed'
Day 42: 'Harvey broke me'
Day 55: Special delivery
Day 63: Housing after Harvey (w/video)
Day 86: Zoo to spread its wings again