Hansen derelict boat bill wins Senate approval

Measure expected to help protect waterways and the industries tied to them.

OLYMPIA – A two-year bipartisan effort to protect marine jobs and water quality took a major step toward fruition Friday with state Senate approval of a bill by Rep. Drew Hansen that attacks the problem of  derelict and abandoned boats and ships.

“A lot of work has gone into this bill – by Democrats and Republicans, House members and senators, environmentalists, boaters, shellfishers, marina operators, industry representatives and more,” Hansen said. “This bill will save jobs and also keep our waterways clean and safe for recreation and industry.”

The measure 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 last year.

The bill easily passed in the Senate on a 45-4 vote.

“This bill provides some really common-sense ways that we can prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future,” Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, said on the Senate floor.

“We’re making a legitimate effort to keep our waterways very clean,” Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, said in urging support for the measure. “We want our sound to be pristine, and our coastlines.”

The bill, which earlier passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, must return there for acceptance of Senate amendments, which is expected.

Marine jobs play a major role in the economy of Kitsap County, which Hansen, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, represents in the state House. Hansen worked over the summer with Rep. Norma Smith, a Whidbey Island Republican, to accelerate the removal of derelict vessels, increase accountability for owners of high-risk boats and prompt boat owners to dispose of vessels safely.

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

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

Hansen’s newest proposal would do more to address the problem, and focuses on the bigger, older boats that officials say are most likely to decay and become derelict.

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