Hearings are being held today in Olympia on two bills aimed at giving Washington state more power to deal with derelict and abandoned vessels.
House Bill 1245 and Senate Bill 5663 are intended to hold vessel owners more accountable, prevent vessels from becoming derelict or abandoned in the first place, make enforcement more effective and shore up funding so these vessels don’t become a burden to Washington taxpayers or create an environmental disaster.
When the Deep Sea caught fire and sank in Penn Cove last year, the resulting oil spill response, raising, towing, dismantling, and disposal of the vessel cost taxpayers close to $3 million and caused a shellfish farm to shut down its operation for at least a month.
“We need to find a way to keep these vessels from being abandoned in our waterways, and that means holding owners accountable,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a release.
“Too many people get in over their heads, and their dreams of ship renovation or making money from scrap become a nightmare for the citizens of this state and the marine environment.”
“This legislation 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,” said Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island. “This is a real concern for us in Kitsap County, where we have lots of jobs that depend on safe and clean waterways.”
“There’s no denying that derelict vessels are an eyesore and a real environmental problem,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Munroe. “So I’m committed to taking action. Any proposal that recognizes the cost and the challenges to all the stakeholders must have a chance to be considered by the legislature.”
Hearings on both bills are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today, Feb. 14.
The state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is run by the Department of Natural Resources and facilitates the removal and disposal of derelict or abandoned vessels. Since its launch in 2003, the program has removed more than 400 derelict and abandoned vessels from Washington waters.