A new law gives the state Wildlife Resources Commission authority and funding to remove abandoned and derelict vessels from public waters and state lands.
House bill 308, which Gov. Roy Cooper signed Wednesday, designates $1 million for the commission “to inspect, investigate, and remove abandoned and derelict vessels.” The measure also allows the commission to use other funding to address the problem. Environmental groups and the Division of Coastal Management had sought such a measure for several years.
“This funding and authority granted to the Wildlife Resource Commission will benefit coastal habitats that the Division of Coastal Management works to protect by providing the legal authority needed to remove abandoned vessels located in sensitive areas,” said Division Director Braxton Davis. “In many cases, removal of vessels will help these important habitats recover naturally.”The measure defines an abandoned and derelict vessel as one that has been left or stored for more than 30 days in a wrecked, junked or substantially damaged or dismantled condition, or left in a harbor or anchored in state public waters without permission of the agency having jurisdiction. Vessels docked, grounded or beached on another’s property without the owner’s permission are also subject to the law, which also lays out the process for removal.
Under that process, the commission will first need to send a written notice to the last known owner, if one can be found, to learn the vessel’s status and post a notice on the vessel advising that it’s abandoned. If the commission doesn’t receive a response to either notice within 30 days, then it can remove and dispose of the vessel.
The commission can remove and dispose of abandoned and derelict vessels on private property after receiving written permission from the property owner and following other steps prescribed under the new law.
“This new law gives the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission a step-by-step process that it can now follow to remove abandoned and derelict vessels that litter our coast,” said North Carolina Coastal Federation Executive Director Todd Miller.
“With these clearly defined procedures in place, the commission will be working with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management and the North Carolina Coastal Federation to remove many dozens of vessels over the next few months. It resolves legal uncertainties that in the past have made it difficult to remove these boats,” he said.