BREVARD COUNTY - A new bill has been introduced in the Florida State Legislature that would provide for the removal or relocation of derelict boats that pose a risk to navigation and public safety.

“The issue of derelict vessels is particularly important to us here in Brevard County as we continue our efforts to restore the Indian River Lagoon,” said Rep. Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) who introduced HB 639. "Vessels in this condition represent a danger to commercial fishing and recreational boaters."

The legislation proposes creating a a Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP), under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), that would establish nuisance vessel criteria and clarify derelict vessel notification requirements.

Vessels found in violation of the at-risk vessel law three or more times in an 18-month period would be classified as nuisance vessels subject to relocation or removal from state waters. The proposal provides for a 21-day notification period to allow derelict vessel owners to satisfy their right to “due process” through an administrative hearing.

Rep. Sirois spoke about the measure during a news conference earlier this month held on Merritt Island. He was joined by Major Robert Rowe, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Boating and Waterways Section Leader.

“FWC is dedicated to working with city and county officials to keep our waterways free of derelict and nuisance vessels to ensure the enjoyment of current and future generations," said Major Rowe. "House Bill 639 is the next step toward this goal by holding owners of derelict and nuisance vessels responsible for the burden they place on Florida’s taxpayers.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife reports that there have been 84 derelict vessel investigations in Brevard County over the last two years and since January 1 of this year, six more boats have been reported as derelict vessels in Brevard County.

Derelict vessels pose a danger not only to safe navigation and public safety. They also represent an environmental hazard, especially to the growth of sea grass and marine life.

“We must tackle this problem. In 2016, Brevard County voters approved half-cent sales tax to raise $300 million for lagoon,” said Representative Sirois. “All levels of government, including the Florida Legislature, are working to upgrade storm water and waste treatment infrastructure and fund projects like muck dredging and septic to sewer conversions. The issue of derelict vessels remains unresolved and I am committed to making progress on this issue.”

HB 639 has been referred to the House Environment, Agriculture, and Flooding Subcommittee. The companion bill in the Senate is SB 1086 by Senator Travis Hutson.

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