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House approves Hansen bill to strengthen state’s response to derelict vessels

The historic tugboat “Chickamauga,” which sank in its mooring at Eagle Harbor Marina in October of last year, is only one of many such incidents involving derelict vessels that inspired the recent legislative push to hold the boat owners more accountable for damage caused by their ill-cared-for vessels. - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
The historic tugboat “Chickamauga,” which sank in its mooring at Eagle Harbor Marina in October of last year, is only one of many such incidents involving derelict vessels that inspired the recent legislative push to hold the boat owners more accountable for damage caused by their ill-cared-for vessels.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

In an effort to prevent a continuing threat to jobs in the marine and recreational industries by avoiding one major avoidable causes of pollution and obstruction, the House approved on Monday, Feb. 17, a measure to speed up removal of sinking and abandoned vessels from the state’s waterways.

The measure, House Bill 2457, sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen, is designed to address the kind of incidents that have generated headlines around Puget Sound in recent years, including the sinking of the abandoned tugboat “Chickamauga” in Eagle Harbor in October of last year, which was only itself recently removed.

“There’s a real sense of urgency now,” Hansen said of the issue of derelict vessels.

“We have a lot of jobs in Kitsap County that depend on safe and clean waterways,” he said. “Derelict boats are a real threat to those jobs, and I wanted to work on solving that problem.”

Hansen, a Democrat from the 23rd District, worked primarily with Rep. Norma Smith, a Whidbey Island Republican, on the bipartisan proposal to accelerate the removal of derelict vessels, increase accountability for owners of high-risk boats and prompt them to dispose of vessels safely.

It’s not the first piece of legislation to come from Hansen’s office addressing the issue.

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

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

Hansen’s newest proposal goes further still to address the problem, and focuses on the bigger, older boats that are most likely to decay and become derelict.

It’s needed, he said, due to the possible loss of jobs and revenue that would occur should a large enough vessel contaminate a natural resource like a shellfish bed.

“That’s why we really have to get on top of this issue now before we have a real catastrophe,” he said. “If [a vessel like] the ‘Chickamauga’ goes down by one of our shellfish beds, a lot of people will be out of work.”

Smith, whose own district has experienced problems with derelict vessels as well after a decrepit boat burned and sank near the mussel farm in Penn Cove, supported and collaborated on the legislation in what Hansen called a “truly bipartisan solution.”

“We’re going to be able to really set a national standard for how to do things differently,” Smith said recently.

The ensuing 88-9 vote in favor sent the bill on to the Senate.

“It was great,” Hansen said of the collaboration with Smith.

“Rep. Smith and I talked on the phone once a week, sometimes more, since June and we worked very, very hard to come up with a truly bipartisan solution to this problem.

“She was a great partner. There are as many Republicans as there are Democrats who co-sponsored the bill,” he added. “That’s a testament to our ability to reach across the aisle and look for commonsense solutions.”

 

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