WATCH: Representative Tyler Sirois Addresses Derelict Vessel Problem in the Indian River Lagoon

By  //  February 24, 2021

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legislation provides relocation of at-risk vessels 20 feet or more away from mangroves or upland vegetation

ABOVE VIDEO: Today, Representative Tyler Sirois held a press conference on HB 639, a bill relating to derelict boats and the safe operation of vessels.  Representative Sirois highlighted key provisions of the bill with an emphasis on how it will address at-risk and derelict vessels in state waters. 

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — Today, Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) held a press conference on HB 639, a bill relating to derelict boats and the safe operation of vessels.  Representative Sirois highlighted key provisions of the bill with an emphasis on how it will address at-risk and derelict vessels in state waters. 

“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 Representative Sirois.  “According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, there have been 84 derelict vessel investigations in Brevard County over the last two years.”

“Vessels in this condition represent a danger to commercial fishing and recreational boaters,” Representative Sirois continued.  “They are a danger to safe navigation and represent a severe environmental hazard—especially to the growth of sea grass and marine life.  Since January 1 of this year, six more boats have been reported as derelict vessels in Brevard County.”

Representative Sirois was joined by Major Robert Rowe, FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader.  Major Rowe further highlighted the hazards and environmental impact of derelict vessels in our waterways.

“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.  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,” said Major Rob Rowe.  “Provisions including the Vessel Turn-In Program (VTIP), establishing nuisance vessel criteria and clarifying derelict vessel notification requirements are just a few of the tools that will help provide relief for local communities struggling with derelict vessel issues.  By empowering the FWC to establish a Vessel Turn-In Program, we will be able to provide better preventative alternatives for owners with vessels nearing the end of their usefulness.”

The legislation provides for relocation of at-risk vessels 20 feet or more away from mangroves/upland vegetation.

■ Authorizes the establishment of derelict vessel prevention programs such as Vessel Turn-In Program.

■ Establishes at-risk vessels found in violation of the at-risk vessel law three or more times in an 18-month period as nuisance vessels subject to relocation or removal from state waters.

■ Updates the removal notice to reflect a 21-day period for notification of derelict vessel owners to satisfy their right to “due process” through an administrative hearing.

■ For derelict vessels, it defines the terms wrecked, junked and substantially dismantled in statute.

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.

“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.”

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