State

Frankfort works to remove abandoned vessels from the Kentucky River

Local emergency management officials were on hand Thursday as a crew from Aquarius Marine crew hosed mud and debris from a sunken houseboat to make it lighter.
Local emergency management officials were on hand Thursday as a crew from Aquarius Marine crew hosed mud and debris from a sunken houseboat to make it lighter. rosalind.essig@state-journal.com

The city of Frankfort has been working this week to remove abandoned vessels from the Kentucky River in the city limits.

A barge and a crane from Ohio-based Aquarius Marine pulled two sunken houseboats and another vessel out of the river Wednesday. Emergency management director Tom Russell said two remaining boats would be removed and all would be offloaded Thursday.

The Frankfort City Commission voted June 26 to approve a $19,000 contract with Aquarius to remove the abandoned vessels in the city limits. Russell said there are two in the county that Franklin County Fiscal Court might address next year.

Russell said most of the boats abandoned on Frankfort’s banks sank 20 or more years ago.

He said after wrapping up Wednesday that the work is going “extremely well.” The first houseboat, across from River View Park, took approximately two hours and was the most difficult.

“The crane operator is really talented with his crew, but everything’s going really well,” he said.

Mayor Bill May said the boats had been a concern for some time and that it’s important to clean up the banks as Frankfort works to bring in more tourism on the river.

“It cleans up the waterways and makes them more attractive for boaters and tourists. And now that the locks have been opened, we want to have more people using the Kentucky River and more people visiting Frankfort by boat. That’s part of our long-term efforts by putting in more docks: to get people to come to Frankfort and be able to drive in a dock and walk up to downtown Frankfort.”

May said that he gathered state officials, including representatives from Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, to take a boat tour to see the problem areas in November and that the cleanup had to be approved by the Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kentucky River Authority.

In addition to the river authority, the Frankfort-Franklin County Office of Emergency Management, Frankfort Public Works, Frankfort Fire and EMS, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites all assisted on the removal. GRA-KAT Environmental Services of Shelbyville was there to help with any fuel or petroleum spills.

A small amount of petroleum leaked during the removal of the first houseboat but was contained by booms placed around it for that purpose. Absorbent pads were used to remove the petroleum, and Russell said the other vessels removed Wednesday didn’t leak.

Russell said there appears to be no ordinance giving authority to make owners remove the boats, unless there is an environmental impact. He said that was an issue that he expects will be taken up by the city after the removal project is complete.

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