Senate bill seeks to make the removal of abandoned boats easier for cities across N.C.

Senate Bill 465 seeks to address abandoned boats that have been left in the water.
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 8:32 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A new bill filed in the N.C. Senate could have a big impact on cleaning up waterways throughout the state.

It doesn’t have anything to do with forever chemicals like PFAS but rather addresses a different form of pollution.

As the boating industry continues to grow and gears up for the busy summer season, there’s an issue that goes hand-in-hand with more boats in the water, and that is more boats being left in the water.

It’s not a new problem, but the amount of abandoned boats has increased ever since the boating industry boomed during the pandemic. Now the worry is the debris from the boats that have been left behind.

You may think an abandoned boat simply sits in the water and is forgotten about, but in addition to the dangerous situations they pose for boaters and wildlife, they are also responsible for harmful fuel and sewage spills.

You might wonder why they aren’t just taken out, and the reason is that cities must go through many obstacles to remove an abandoned vessel.

For many boats, it’s nearly impossible to find out who it originally belonged to because people scrape off the registration numbers.

Senate Bill 465 would make it easier to get rid of abandoned vessels and it would authorize all cities in North Carolina to remove abandoned boats if they approve a local ordinance.

In February, Carolina Beach filed its own bill in hopes of regulating and cleaning up the waters within its jurisdiction.

“Hopefully, with new regulations or the legislation that the General Assembly is looking at, we will have a little more teeth to monitor these vessels and make sure that they’re not pumping sewage into the waterway. That boaters are responsibly anchoring and not causing a hazard to themselves or the adjacent property owners,” said Ed Parvin, assistant town manager for Carolina Beach.

A few weeks ago, Topsail Beach, North Topsail Beach and Surf City asked the state for more authority over their waters,

Right now, the rules to do so are managed by state and federal agencies. This bill would give each city the ability to remove boats more quickly. However, it won’t be boat owners footing the bill, it’s taxpayer money that will be used to get rid of the vessels.

“That’s always been the biggest hurdle is to figure out who’s gonna pay for the removal of the vessel. And that’s always been a problem. So you know, more times than not the boat just gets left there until it’s actually a bad environmental hazard, then it’ll get removed,” said Jon Geiss, assistant manager for Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach.

If a state or federal agency, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, removes an abandoned vessel, then the money comes from the state. But for smaller cities, it’s not a cheap price. The starting price can range anywhere from $300 to $400 per foot of the boat. It adds up to being a multi-thousand-dollar project for many coastal towns.

WECT will continue to monitor the progress of Senate Bill 465 and report on any updates.