Gov. Brown signs marine debris bill

SACRAMENTO — A bill proposal allowing government officials and public agencies to dispose of any boats found floating, submerged or beached in a public waterway after 10 days if it is determined to be marine debris was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 8.

Assembly Bill 1323 (AB 1323) was forwarded to Brown after legislators vetted and approved each proposal; the State Senate unanimously supported AB 1323 last month and Assembly members voted 71-0 in favor of Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s bill in May.

The proposed law aims to remove barriers for state, county and local officials to address abandoned vessels and remove or destroy marine debris or solid waste.

AB 1323 defined a vessel as marine debris if it was determined to be “unseaworthy and not reasonably fit or capable of being made fit to be used as a means of transportation by water … [and] is floating, sunk, partially sunk or beached in or on a public waterway, public beach or on state tidelands or submerged lands, and … has no or little value.”

A vessel could be removed immediately if state, county or local officials determine it to be marine debris and a threat to public health or safety.

Boat owners or anyone causing marine debris to be removed by state, county or local officials would be financially responsible for any and all costs associated with the removal and disposal.

Boat owners abandoning their vessels has been a growing problem, according to a legislative analysis of AB 1323.

“The state has experienced an increase in the amount of watercraft being abandoned in state waterways over the last several years,” the legislative analysis found. “Boats are some of the most expensive luxury items to maintain and store, and unlike other luxury goods cannot be disposed of easily or cheaply.”

A legislative analysis of AB 1323 conducted by Assembly staff pointed out abandoned boats and marine debris in public waterways are a nuisance.

“Abandoned boats, especially those that capsize and sink, can interfere with boating traffic and damage operational vessels attempting to navigate a waterway,” Assembly staff stated in its analysis of AB 1323. “Abandoned boats that begin to deteriorate can leach toxic chemicals or fuel into state waterways. Removing these vessels is difficult, potentially dangerous and expensive. The sooner an abandoned boat is removed from the waterway, the less likely it is to pose harm to the environment and salvage crews.”

AB 1323 complements a few programs in place designed to assist boaters who seek to part ways with their respective vessels. One of those programs is the Vessel Turn-In Program, or VTIP, which is designed to give boat owners an avenue to dispose of a vessel they might have otherwise abandoned.

Frazier’s bill stated most of those who usually take advantage of VTIP do so with an intact vessel. AB 1323 would allow state or local officials to address marine debris emanating from a deteriorating vessel if it is not claimed or removed within 10 days.

A State Senate proposal to allow the city of Los Angeles lease or grant its tidelands or submerged lands for up to 66 years (SB 399) was signed by Brown on Oct. 2; the city was permitted to lease such lands for 50 years.

Bills not moving forward this year include proposals to allow recreational swimming at certain reservoirs in San Diego County, pass meaningful legislation calling for renewable fuel reform and establish an oversight committee to monitor aquatic invasive species in the Delta.

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