More than 20 boats clog Norfolk waterway

Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-26 06:31:20-05

Norfolk, Va. - Originally they were destined for a second life as reefs at the bottom of the ocean but now derelict boats just sit, forgotten on the side of a Norfolk waterway.

“I don’t quite understand why enforcement actions haven’t been taken,” said Regina Fremont-Gomez, who feels those boats are infringing on her brother's property just off the Elizabeth River near the Campostella Bridge.

She says they have piled up over the years to become both a navigational hazard and an eyesore.

“If there were only one or two of them, and they are getting rid of them at a regular basis, then that’s fine, but when there are 16, 17 or 20 of them and they are not making any progress, that’s a problem,” said Fremont-Gomez.

Some of these boats are famous in their own right, like the former USS Zuni.

It is one of the only remaining Navy ships that aided in the Iwo Jima invasion.

She then became a Coast Guard cutter, who actually aided in the 1991 rescue depicted in the movie, “A Perfect Storm.”

She was owned by a group who wanted to turn her into a museum…until this past year.

“They transferred ownership to American Marine Group…that business is owned by Tim Mullane,” said Jim Lang, an attorney for the Gomez family.

Lang has spent the last six months tying all these boats back to Timothy Mullane.

Mullane's company, American Marine Group, has grabbed headlines in the past for their work salvaging old military ships and then sinking them as artificial reefs.

Those that haven't made it to the open ocean--end up sitting right here in Norfolk.

“They are fed up with this floating junkyard that is clogging up the waterway and damaging their property value,” said Lang.

Lang has been working to compel the City of Norfolk and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to take action against Mullane.

Both agencies tell NewsChannel 3 they agree--there are too many boats out there, and the situation is not sustainable, but have yet to figure out who has jurisdiction over enforcement.

“There appears to be no one responsible, and no one wants to take the actions they are allowed to take,” said Fremont-Gomez.

The City of Norfolk says they plan on meeting with Mullane soon, along with other stakeholders, to hammer out a solution.

NewsChannel 3 tried to contact Mullane, but only had luck getting to his attorney, who had no clue how to reach him.