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Inslee signs bill strengthening the state’s ability to address derelict vessels
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Monday that helps reduce taxpayer burden by strengthening the state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program.
The new law (ESHB 1245) holds vessel owners more accountable, helps prevent vessels from becoming derelict or abandoned in the first place, improves enforcement, and bolsters funding to better help the state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program deal with these vessels.
“This bill helps get us on the right track to improving the conditions of our state’s waterways,” Inslee said. “Derelict vessels pose a very serious threat to the environment and to our state’s economic well-being.”
Key elements of the bill:
— Permanently establishes the $1 surcharge on vessel registration that was set to expire at the end of this year.
— Gives authority to the Washington Department of Ecology and authorized public entities to board vessels that meet the definition of “abandoned” or “derelict” for the purpose of assessing and correcting any potential threats to health, safety, and the environment.
— Changes registration-related offenses (such as failing to register) from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction, making enforcement and collection of fines more realistic and efficient.
— Increases owner accountability by requiring owners of vessels longer than 65 feet and older than 40 years to obtain a vessel inspection before transferring ownership of the vessel to another party.
ESHB 1245 was sponsored by state Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island.
“This bill protects jobs by getting abandoned boats out of our waters before they sink and cause millions of dollars of damage to our state’s shellfish and recreation industries,” Hansen said. “This is a real concern for us in Kitsap County, where we have lots of jobs that depend on safe and clean waterways.”
The bill had strong bipartisan support; it was approved by the House 96-1, by the Senate 44-3.
“Derelict vessels pose a serious threat to Puget Sound and the coastlines of Washington State. The crisis we experienced at Penn Cove last year with the sinking of a derelict vessel highlights what’s at stake,” said Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. “With a collaborative effort, we developed an effective piece of legislation that provides a holistic approach with greater accountability. I look forward to continuing our work this summer with stakeholders to improve the opportunities for deconstruction and recycling of vessels, and strengthen prevention strategies.”
Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, prime sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, added, “I can’t think of a better legacy to leave our children than clean waterways, free from polluting vessels.”