Legislation sponsored by Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) to streamline the removal of derelict vessels in Washington waters was signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee, after passing both chambers of the Legislature unanimously.

“Getting derelict vessels out of our water more quickly is a big deal for our coastal and port communities,” said Shewmake. “This bill will help everyone involved by cutting red tape in the appeals process, allowing our Pollution Control Hearings Board to focus on other important work, and getting derelicts out of the water. It’s a small but impactful bill to make government work better.”

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 offshore 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.

The bill will go into effect on July 23, 2023, 90 days after the end of the legislative session.