NEW: Bills Signed into Law Allowing Communities to Dispose of Abandoned Vessels
Friday, June 22, 2012
Environmental and boating officials in Rhode Island estimate that between 30 and 40 abandoned boats appear around the state every year, some sitting derelict in their final resting spot for months, presenting hazards to navigation and threatening the environment by leaking fuel and other chemicals into the water.
The governor has signed legislation approved by the General Assembly to allow municipalities or other authorized public entities to dispose of the abandoned vessels if their attempts to contact the owners fail and, if possible, to recoup some value from them. Vessels would be considered abandoned or derelict if they are left in the waters for more than 45 consecutive days or more than 90 days during a calendar year.
“This legislation,” said House bill sponsor Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), “will allow the community where the abandoned boat is located to use or dispose of the vessel in such a way as to derive some monetary benefit.”
The legislation signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee – 2012-S 2610A and 2012-H 7801A – allows the authorized entity, once they take possession of the vessel, to seek some monetary value for the boat, either in whole or as scrap, or through a public auction.
Any proceeds derived from the sale of the recovered boats will first be used to cover the cost of the removal and, if any funds remain, to satisfy any liens registered against the vessel. Any funds remaining after those costs and obligations are satisfied will be turned over to a “Derelict and Abandoned Vessel and Obstruction Removal Account” that is established by the legislation.
That fund, which is to be administered by the Department of Environmental Management, will be used to cover the cost of removing, disposing of and/or selling the abandoned vessels, including any associated administrative or environmental remediation costs.
The new law also establishes a “Derelict and Abandoned Vessel and Obstruction Removal Commission,” a five-member body that will prioritize use of funds in the new account and to develop criteria regarding removal of the vessels.
It also establishes a vessel and obstruction removal fee to be assessed in addition to the regular vessel registration fee, on a sliding scale ranging from $2 for a vessel 1 to 15 feet in length up to $20 for a vessel 51 feet and longer.
The bulk of the new law goes into effect immediately, while the additional abandoned vessel fees for registrations and renewals will go into effect on March 1, 2013.
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