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From the Boathouse: Seeking support for abandoned boat law

March 28, 2013|By Mike Whitehead

Ahoy!

News of the week is that the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) is encouraging boaters to support SB 122, which was introduced by Sen. Ted W. Lieu. This bill will prevent the automatic sunset of the abandoned and derelict vessel program scheduled on Jan. 1, and RBOC is supporting this bill to make the program permanent.

Many boaters may not remember when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 716 (introduced by Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg), legislation that will allow law enforcement agencies to remove abandoned vessels from waterways, protecting California waters from deserted boat hazards after Jan. 1, 2006.

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The bill helped to protect California's natural resources and natural habitats. Abandoned vessels are not only an eyesore with a health risk from all the bird droppings, but can pose a navigational hazard to boaters by obstructing waterways, and an environmental risk from leaking oil and fuel. SB 122 will continue to help keep our waterways clear of navigational hazards created by any abandoned boats and prevent a fuel or oil spill. If a boat is abandoned, then it is safe to assume that the vessel has not been maintained; therefore, the vessel has a high probability of petroleum products remaining in the tanks and engines, and possibly floating in the bilge water.

AB 716 doubled the maximum fine for vessel abandonment on public waterways to $3,000, and the court can order violators to repay for the actual cost of removing and disposing of a vessel. The law states that vessels with registration expired for more than one year can be removed from public waterways by law enforcement officers. Legislative bills such as the abandoned and derelict boat program have helped to rid the waterways of deserted or discarded boats left behind by either those who do not care or those who are financially unable to properly remove their boats.

The funding source for removal of any abandoned boat is paid by boaters through the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund. This fund is managed by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, which will become a division under the Department of Parks and Recreation on July 1. We need to maintain the abandoned and derelict boat program as the departmental structure changes.

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