Local leaders say abandoned boat legislation is a step in the right direction

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BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — Boats from Hurricane Matthew and Florence have floated or sunk in our waterways for years, completely untouched.

Now, state and local leaders finally have a way to get rid of them.

Last week, Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 308 in to law.

The measure gives the Wildlife Resources Commission $1 million to remove abandoned and derelict vessels.

A coalition of agencies, including the NC Wildlife Resource Commission, the Division of Coastal Management, and the Department of Environmental Quality helped to get the bill passed.

“It’s one of those things where there are plenty of boats out there, but if you don’t have the authority to go out and pick them up, basically you’re taking somebody’s property and there can be a lot of tort liability,” said Ben Meyer with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

The law also defines what an abandoned vessel is, and how local officials should go about removing it.

To remove a vessel, the commission would need to send a written notice to the owner.

If they aren’t able to find one, post on a notice on the vessel letting those around it know it is abandoned.

If a response isn’t received within 30 days, officials can remove and dispose it.

The same process happens with boats that wash up on private property, as long as the commission gets written permission from the property owner.

“It’s a great start and certainly in advance of hurricane season, it’s really, really helpful,” said Rett Newton, Mayor of Beaufort.

Newton says tackling these forgotten boats is a step towards cleaning up our waterways.

“We want to lead, and we’re not afraid to look at some of our critical issues and start to address those,” said Newton. “Abandoned and derelict vessels are just one of those areas.”

Leaders with NCWRC want people to know that the bill is an emergency measure, and it’s being used to remove boats from just the past couple of storms.

They say the state will need to set aside more funding and offer continued support to really take care of the problem long-term.

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