Legislation sponsored by Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) to streamline the removal of derelict vessels in Washington waters passed the state Senate on a unanimous vote.

The state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is often used to salvage boats that are abandoned, sunk, or run aground in Washington waters – it removed one just off shore near Bellingham’s Waypoint Park in the summer of 2022. But if the owner of a vessel appeals the salvage or seizure of the boat by the program, it can lead to lengthy legal processes involving the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board. That could leave the vessel in the water longer than necessary, potentially polluting the water or impeding other marine traffic.

SB 5192 would allow an administrative law judge to oversee the appeal process in place of a member of the Pollution Control Hearings Board, allowing for more efficient hearings and judicial processes to allow for faster action on derelict vessels.

“We’ve got great programs to address these derelict vessels, but we actually need them to be able to do the work in a timely manner,” said Shewmake. “This will help us move through the appeals and hearing process more smoothly, get derelicts out of the water more quickly, and free up our Pollution Control Hearings Board to focus on other issues. This bill is a simple piece of good government legislation for coastal and port communities.”

The bill was Shewmake’s first piece of legislation to pass the Senate floor. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.