Count on News 2: Bill taking aim at abandoned and derelict boats in local waterways passes SC House

CHARLESTON, S.C. – As law enforcement attempts to crack down on abandoned boats in local waterways, a new bill would place more responsibility on the owners.

Bill H.3865, introduced by freshman Representative Spencer Wetmore, would require a permit for watercraft or floating structures to be moored in a public waterway for an extended period, specifically, 14 consecutive days.

The cost of the permit would not exceed $15.00.

For years local law enforcement has been working to remove abandoned and derelict boats which post environmental and navigational hazards.

Boats are often left abandoned due to the cost of upkeep. Charleston Police Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit will track down vessel owners through the registration and the hull identification number.

In compliance with a City of Charleston ordinance, if an owner of a derelict boat is identified, they are issued a $1,000 citation.

But what happens when an owner is not located? “If we’re unable to track down the owners, then we start the abandonment process for us to acquire funds to remove that boat from the waterways,” said Sergeant Chris Morrell, with the Charleston Police Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit, during an interview with News 2 last December.

That money comes from the city, the SC Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and outside donors.

The SC House bill, which passed with wide support on Tuesday, now goes to the Senate floor, where Sen. Chip Campsen has introduced similar legislation.

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