Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120
02/27/2018 10:00 AM FISHERIES
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HB 386-VESSELS: REGISTRATION/TITLES; DERELICTS 10:04:40 AM CHAIR STUTES announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 386, "An Act relating to abandoned and derelict vessels; relating to the registration of vessels; relating to certificates of title for vessels; relating to the duties of the Department of Administration; relating to the duties of the Department of Natural Resources; establishing the derelict vessel prevention program; establishing the derelict vessel prevention program fund; and providing for an effective date." 10:05:33 AM REPRESENTATIVE PAUL SEATON, Alaska State Legislature, said that derelict vessels have long been a problem that costs the state and municipalities significant money and heartache. He previously introduced a derelict vessel bill in 2013, House Bill 131, to try to make a better system. Previously, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had the sole responsibility for cleaning up, yet the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities had responsibility for some communities so interagency problems occurred. He referred to the PowerPoint presentation and to slide 3 titled "A Guy Walks into a Bar," which depicts a photo of two vessels that tried to come into the Homer harbor but were turned away. Once the vessels were turned away, they were anchored up across the bay from the Homer Spit. During the winter, the bilge pumps failed, the vessels sank, and an oil spill leaked into the cove. The previous bill required that operators turned away from harbors could not store the vessels for over 14 days without removing all the hazardous materials. He recalled the derelict vessels just mentioned cost the state $360,000 to remedy, including haul out and storage. 10:08:18 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said that the harbormasters and statewide task force meetings hashed out the derelict vessel issue; that HB 386 requires accountability such as title information, which would be like the title registration for vehicles under the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The purpose would be to deter derelict vessels from coming to Alaska. 10:10:15 AM PATRICIA NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN, Staff, Representative Paul Seaton, Alaska State Legislature, explained that Rachel Lord would present a PowerPoint. 10:11:13 AM MS. NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN said that the State of Alaska was home to aging vessels that are moored or deposited in Alaska harbors, shorelines and in State tidelands. Many of these vessels have fallen into ill repair, leading to their abandonment in the waters of Alaska. The State of Alaska, its municipalities and ultimately Alaska citizens will be accountable for these derelict and abandoned vessels without legislative action. Alaska waters are home to over 9,400 vessels. By 2025, the Alaska fleet will include roughly 3,100 vessels more than 45 years old. In addition, there are approximately 68,000 boats registered in the state. MS. NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN stated that current state regulations for disposal and cleanup of these aging vessels contain "no teeth". The state does not have a change of ownership tracking system for vessels. Derelict vessels present navigation and environmental hazards and disposal of derelict vessels falls to the state or local municipalities without the financial means to recover costs. MS. NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN stated that HB 386 would provide a process through the Department of Administration (DOA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to stanch the accumulation of derelict and abandoned vessels in Alaska. It would initiate ownership tracking of a vessel that was like the process used for motor vehicles through the DOA. It would require a title for nondocumented vessels and expand the registration process. It would update and increase fines upon conviction of unlawful abandonment of a vessel. It would provide a nominal increase in state registration fees and would create a requirement and fee for state vessel titles. MS. NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN related that the DNR would establish and administer a derelict vessel prevention program. It would outline a process for abatement of a derelict vessel while balancing the public's rights with those of a vessel owner. It would update and increase fines upon conviction of unlawful abandonment of a vessel and provide due process to a vessel owner with notices and hearings prior to impoundment or disposal. She closed by stating that HB 386 would take an important step toward responsible vessel ownership to address the current and future derelict vessel issues in Alaska. 10:14:17 AM RACHEL LORD, Executive Secretary, Alaska Association of Harbormasters & Port Administrators (AAHPA), stated that the AAHPA consisted of 250 members who represent most of the ports and harbors throughout Alaska. She began a PowerPoint presentation on derelict vessels. 10:15:15 AM MS. LORD directed attention to the quote on slide 2, titled "What's the Problem?" which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: "By 2025, the Alaska fleet will include roughly 3,100 vessels between 28' and 59' that are more than 45 years old...the Alaska fleet also includes 75 passenger vessels, tugs, and barges over 50 years old..." MS. LORD stated that the quote was taken from a McDowell Group report that was done for the Alaska maritime industrial support sector. This statement was considered a positive goal for ship building; however, this highlighted a problem, that Alaska does not have a "cradle-to-grave" plan for vessels. She directed attention to a link to a YouTube https://youtu.be/S-SFGTzlA1g that a private citizen created which illustrated the problems of derelict vessels in Steamboat Slough in Bethel. 10:16:04 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 3, titled "A Guy Walks into a Bar," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: We love our boats, and we depend on our coasts and rivers for transportation, commerce, and quality of life. But there is no denying the immense cost of owning and maintaining a boat. Those costs only increase over time. MS. LORD explained that boats can last for decades; however, what happens is a vessel gets passed on to the next person and as a boat ages it often has been passed on to a person least able to maintain the vessel to keep it afloat. She characterized this as a national problem. 10:17:25 AM MS. LORD turned to the next slice, titled "Jakolof Bay 2012-13," which consisted of a photograph of a boat that sank. She stated that the photograph depicts one of two boats that sank on Christmas Eve in 2012 in Jakolof Bay. She explained that the person who purchased the boats in Sand Point traveled to Kodiak, then on to Seldovia and Homer, but was not allowed into those harbors. MS. LORD explained currently the statutes to address the problem have minimally addressed derelict vessels. These statutes were enacted in 1976 and minimally updated in 2013 under House Bill 131. Municipalities who have the authority to address derelict vessels have been doing so; for example, Homer Kodiak, Cordova, and CBJ [Juneau] all have strong ordinances to protect customers and the [harbors], the working infrastructure, against vessel owners who cannot pay moorages and endanger other vessels. At the end of the day, the state and the smaller communities who do not have the funding to afford them legal protections become the [financial] losers. 10:19:11 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 5, titled "A growing Problem," depicting a map, and which read, in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]: ADNR has begun a database, but it is far from complete. There are nearly 200 documented derelicts across Alaska. we know many more exist, and the number will continue to increase. MS. LORD turned to slide 6, titled "The Public Pays The Price," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: With outdated statutes, our municipalities and state agencies are unable to effectively prevent and manage derelict vessels. Alaskan waters are a default dumping ground. MS. LORD stated that Washington has improved and strengthened its derelict vessel laws in the past five years, which tends to encourage dumping vessels in Alaska since Alaska really has become a very soft target. 10:20:11 AM MS. LORD directed attention to slide 7, titled "Solutions in HB 386," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Over a two-year period, the Derelict Vessel Task Force identified major barriers and solutions to improve derelict vessel prevention and management in Alaska. MS. LORD added that the AAHPA, the Alaska Clean Harbors Program created a voluntary ad hoc Derelict Vessel Task Force, with open participation. 10:21:07 AM MS. LORD continued with slide 8, titled "Task Force Participants," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ADNR, Mining Land & Water ADEC, Spill Prevention & Response ADOT, Ports & Harbors ADF&G, Habitat USCG, Sectors Anchorage & Juneau/Div. of Waterways Management NOAA, Marine Debris Program/Restoration EPA, Response Region 10 AAHPA (Bethel, Homer) Orutsararmiut Native Councils Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office Alaska Marine Response MS. LORD stated that the task force, consisting of state and federal agencies, [and participants listed on this slide], met for nine full days over a two-year period. The Derelict Vessel Task Force (DVTF) had pro bono legal support from the law firm Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, a firm with extensive experience in issues related to derelict vessels and admiralty law. 10:22:03 AM MS. LORD stated that the genesis of HB 386 came from the work of the DVTF, whose participants reviewed case studies, current methods used for disposing of derelict vessels and how those methods could be improved, and other states' remedies for derelict vessels. She characterized HB 386 as a strong bill, one that was vetted by stakeholders, who assessed and reviewed the current derelict vessel situation in Alaska. MS. LORD provided a brief section-by-section analysis of HB 386, noting that Sections 1-8 were changes to AS 05.25, the watercraft chapter. The goal of the DVTF was to make as few changes as possible, noting the state's boating safety program was established in AS 05. 10:23:03 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 9, titled "Registration and Titling," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Agencies and municipalities have found establishing ownership is one of the major hurdles to hold owners responsible for derelict vessels. Requiring all vessels operating in Alaska to be registered with DMV, and beginning a titling system for vessels similar to that in place for motor vehicles, are commonsense solutions to improve accountability. MS. LORD stated the DVTF determined that the only changes that were necessary to AS 05.25 related to vessel ownership. Currently 68,000 vessels are registered in Alaska; however, the state does not know how many documented vessels are in Alaska's waters. The provisions in HB 386 would expand the universe of registration to include documented vessels, which has been done in at least 26 other states, including Washington. She related that currently vessel registration fees are $24 every three years. The bill would increase this to $30 every three years. The other change in AS 05 would be to establish a titling program for the state, which would not apply to documented vessels but would require titles for non-documented vessels in Alaska. This would provide personal property protection for owners, just as for vehicle owners. Boat trailers have considerably less liability than a boat to people over time and this bill would regulate vessels and trailers to be more in line with the current DMV vehicle registration system. 10:25:11 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 10, titled "Increase Clarity" which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Agencies and municipalities statewide need increased clarity for defining a derelict vessel ownership, and for the impoundment process including clarified hearing and notice requirements. SB updates Chapter 30.30 to bring clarity and improve utility of the statutes. MS. LORD explained that the remainder of the bill were changes to derelict vessels under AS 30.30, which was written in 1976. The DVTT rewrote that chapter in its entirety. Currently, before a derelict vessel such as the Akutan could be dealt with, agencies and municipalities must determine whether the vessel would be considered as "abandoned" or as a "derelict vessel." This definition matters because the path for impoundment and disposal process differs depending on how a vessel is defined, she said. This bill would dramatically improve clarity since it would define all abandoned vessels as derelict vessels under AS 30.30. It would also clarify what it means to own a vessel, as well as the impoundment process. Some have argued that the state law may not be constitutional in terms of due process under federal admiralty law. The provisions in HB 386 improve due process for boat owners and spell out the process for noticing, impoundment, and hearings for vessels deemed to be derelict vessels. 10:27:05 AM MS. LORD directed attention to slide 11, titled "Enforcement Authority & Increased Penalties," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Current statutes restrict enforcement of derelict vessel laws. One major way to reduce vessel sinkings and prevent owners from walking away is to provide for enforcement of the chapter to hold owners accountable and prevent derelict vessels from sinking on public waters. MS. LORD stated that the current statutes limit enforcement for derelict vessels. The provisions in HB 386 would increase the enforcement authority and penalties and allow for civil penalties instead of restricting derelict vessels only to criminal penalties. The current enforcement of writing stern letters to vessel owners has not worked and this bill would improve enforcement. 10:27:40 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 12, titled "Clarified Liability," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Hearing concerns from agencies and public, Task Force members acknowledged that it is important to be clear that a vessel owner is liable for all costs associated with the impoundment, storage and removal of a derelict vessel. MS. LORD said that it was difficult to hold someone liable for walking away from an old boat when he/she does not have any financial resources. The DVTF decided it was important to hold these derelict vessel parties liable, regardless of their financial resources. It was important to have strong laws that can be enforced; that when the state and municipalities have strong laws people are informed not to get into irresponsible situations with vessels. The bill provides clarity for vessel owners and enforcement authorities that vessel owners are liable for all costs associated with impoundment, storage and removal of derelict vessels. 10:28:36 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 13, titled "Streamlined Capacity," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Outside states have found significant improvement in derelict vessel prevention and management by streamlining their efforts through a statewide program/point person. Having a point person at ADNR will concentrate work that is currently being done by numerous staff, will reduce overall costs, and increase efficacy of derelict vessel management. MS. LORD indicated that the bill would provide provisions for the creation of a derelict vessel prevention program under DNR. She reported that some DNR agency members attended a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conference on derelict vessels. These staff returned feeling positive once they realized that none of the states have the funds to dispose of derelict vessels. States that have established a "point person" and funded a proactive program to handle derelict vessels have found the problem diminished over time. She said that language within HB 386 was permissive to allow creation of a derelict vessel prevention fund and to allow the legislature to appropriate funds for the program. Currently, the public does not have any state or local agency staff to contact about a derelict vessel that has been abandoned on state waters even though abandoned vessels routinely happen. She explained that HB 386 allows DNR the statutory authority and capacity to streamline the work related to derelict vessels. In fact, DNR as managers of the state's public land and water, currently must perform the work. Unfortunately, these staff must work on a case-by-case basis to deal with abandoned derelict vessels, she said. 10:30:30 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 14, titled "Cradle-to-Grave," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Addressing vessel disposal was outside of the scope of the Task Force, but must be addressed. Through the derelict vessel prevention program, the state will have the opportunity to begin looking at options for vessel disposal, scrap, and salvage solutions that can benefit the private sector and be a reasonable alternative to vessel abandonment. MS. LORD characterized the cradle-to-grave view of vessel management as important, noting that the DVTF had plenty of ideas but did not solve the issues. She pointed out that the bill contained permissive language within the prevention program section to allow the department to consider some cradle-to-grave options. Alaska does not have a lot of financial capacity, but she said the state could still consider long-term planning options related to derelict vessels to remove boats from waterways before they sink. 10:31:25 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 15, titled "Juneau Empire Editorial Oct. 15, 2015, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: The Alaska Department of Natural Resources...lacks even the authority to fine...for littering. ...In places like Bethel, which has a dumping ground called Steamboat Slough, the problem of derelict and abandoned boats long ago broke the surface of public awareness. ...we could instead simply mandate the registration of all boats --commercial and recreational alike--through the DMV. We could also mandate that boats of a certain size, like all cars, carry insurance sufficient to cover their salvage. At the very least, we could grant the Department of Natural Resources the simple authority to levy fines on those who pollute Alaska's waters. MS. LORD said that when the sunken tug Challenger sunk in Gastineau Channel in 2016, that numerous people wrote letters. She directed attention to the final sentence on the slide, taken from an editorial in the Juneau Empire, which read, "At the very least, we could grant the Department of Natural Resources the simple authority to levy fines on those who pollute Alaska's waters." She stated that this was something HB 386 will do. 10:32:01 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 16, with quotes from a Washington State newspaper, the Chinook Observer, March 22, 2017, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: "Too many people get in over their heads, and their dreams of ship renovation or making money from scrap become a nightmare for the citizens of this state and the marine environment. ...'A hole in the water into which you pour money' is a famous definition of a boat. To the maximum extent possible, we must ensure taxpayers are not the ones doing the pouring." 10:32:20 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 17, titled "HCR 53 1990" which read, in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]: WHEREAS the state does not currently have statutory authority to impose liability on the owners of abandoned vessels... MS LORD noted the slide had a copy of a resolution from 1990 that identified the problem; however, nothing happened until 2013, and now, in 2018, the derelict vessel law is just being brought forward. 10:32:55 AM MS. LORD turned to slide 18, titled "Akutan Dutch Harbor/Unalaska," and commented that there were many articles on the Akutan that members could read. She said that she was aware of only three vessels impounded by DNR under the derelict vessel laws: two in Katchemak Bay, and the Akutan, which was impounded in December at Unalaska. She stated that the state, municipality, and federal governments worked on a creative solution to dispose of the Akutan. She turned to slide 19, titled "Questions," and asked members if they had any questions. 10:34:34 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked about the annual cost for derelict vessels. MS. LORD deferred to the DNR but noted that there was not funding set aside. She acknowledged that considerable staff time has been spent on derelict vessel and in terms of pollution response, that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the US Coast Guard have funds for cleanup. 10:36:00 AM KRIS HESS, Chief of Operations, Central Office, Division of Mining, Land and Water (DML&W), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), responded that the DNR does not have funding set aside for derelict vessel disposal. Anything that the agency does on derelict vessels must be taken from the operating budget. 10:36:30 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN asked how much has been spent on derelict vessels. MS. HESS answered that in 2017, the DNR did not expend funds. In 2018, the DNR expended funds for disposal of the Akutan in the amount of $36,000. The City of Unalaska agreed to reimburse those costs, she said. 10:37:22 AM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN pointed out that a vessel becomes derelict after it anchors any place it is not supposed to do so. He offered his belief there could be many instances in which a person would anchor a vessel for safety or other reasons. He asked for further clarification that would address the timeframe for the definition of "derelict vessel." MS. LORD said that the definition for derelict vessel was derived from current statutes. She explained that AS 30.30 has several definitions for abandoned and derelict vessels, which were combined. She referred to AS 30.30.030, related to applicability. She stated that the DVTF worked with the DNR on the definition and limitation on applicability. The chapter does not apply in safety situations, she said. 10:39:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN referred to page 12, line 22, of HB 386 and asked whether the language expanded the definition of derelict vessel. MS. LORD responded by advising that the goal was to be as clear as possible; for example, some people might consider moored to be tied to a dock versus anchored in open water. She stated that the language would also apply to municipalities without ordinances or other laws; this chapter needed to provide explicit clarity to give them the protection and ability to address derelict vessels under state law. The additional language was more to provide clarity than to expand the definition, she said. 10:41:45 AM MS. NICKELL-ZIMMERMAN responded that the bill sections had been thoroughly addressed by Ms. Lord. 10:42:39 AM REPRESENTATIVE TARR said it was disconcerting to her that the state does not have financial resources to put towards the problem of abandoned and derelict vessels. She expressed an interest in exploring funding especially since these vessels could impact fisheries along Alaska's coastline. 10:43:12 AM CHAIR STUTES announced that she would set HB 386 aside. [HB 386 was held over.]