Efforts continue to save ship from the scrapyard

By Doug Walker – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - It's a piece of history located in the middle of a Gautier salt marsh. You have to walk more than a mile to see it, but then the ghost ship appears.

The St. Christopher was washed ashore more than 10 years ago, and Bryan Leveritt has been fighting to save it ever since.  The process has been painfully slow. That's the opinion of the legal counsel for the Department of Marine Resources, Joseph Runnels.

"When this project began, Bill Clinton was president, George Bush was governor of Texas, and no one had even heard of Barack Obama," Runnels said.

Efforts to save the ship, which was built in 1932 in the Netherlands, began after Hurricane Georges washed it ashore back in 1998. That plan hit a major roadblock when Hurricane Katrina struck in August of 2005.

Years ago, the Department of Marine Resources granted the owner of the vessel, Bryan Leveritt, a permit to dig a canal to float the Christopher to freedom. But so far, that hasn't happened.

"All I can do is apologize for being so long in doing this," Leveritt said, "but we have a worthy project and a lot to do."

Commission Chairman Vernon Asper expressed his frustration at the slow pace of the recovery project.

"We're very anxious to have a firm deadline on when this is going to be removed." Asper said.

If and when the ship is removed, the marsh will have to be restored.

"I would hope that everything will be complete so far as the marsh restoration and the major replanting at the very latest by the end of August," Leveritt said.

And that's what the commission decided.  Leveritt and his organization must have the boat removed by April 30th, and the marsh restored by the end of August.  If that doesn't happen, the matter will be turned over to the state attorney general.

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