Rep. Hansen proposes new bill to safeguard waterways and protect marine jobs by cleaning up derelict vessels

Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island - Photo courtesy of the Washington State Legislature
Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Washington State Legislature

Rep. Drew Hansen of Bainbridge Island is sponsoring a new bill to further fight the problem of derelict and abandoned boats in the waters of Washington state.

“Derelict vessels threaten jobs in the fishing, recreation and marine industries that depend on safe navigation of our waterways,” said Hansen, a Democrat and 23rd District lawmaker.

“We have lots of those jobs in Kitsap County. I want to prevent problems before they develop,” he said.

Hansen worked over the summer with Rep. Norma Smith, a Whidbey Island Republican, on the bipartisan proposal to speed up the removal of derelict vessels. The bill also aims to increase accountability for owners of high-risk boats and encourage boat owners to dispose of vessels safely.

In the 2013 legislative session, Hansen successfully helped to author and push a bill to protect jobs in the marine industries by strengthening the state’s derelict vessel program.

That measure, House Bill 1245, was approved last year with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Hansen’s follow-up proposal, House Bill 2457, would go further to address the problem. It focuses on the bigger, older vessels that are most likely to decay and become derelict.

The bill is the product of a bipartisan working group convened by HB 1245 to evaluate further steps the state could take to protect jobs by removing derelict vessels.

HB 2457 has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The 2014 session of the Legislature started on Jan. 13, and Hansen's bill comes within the session's first week and just days after state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the filing of criminal charges against the owner of the historic tugboat "Chickamauga," which sank in Eagle Harbor in early October and spilled approximately 200 to 300 gallons of petroleum products into Puget Sound.

Anthony R. Smith, the owner of the "Chickamauga," has been charged in Kitsap County Superior Court with one count of theft in the first degree, one count of causing a vessel to become abandoned or derelict and one count of discharge of polluting matters into state waters.

In addition to the penalties for abandoning the vessel and polluting state waters, state officials noted that theft in the first degree is a Class B felony that is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine plus restitution, assessments and court costs.


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