Governor signs Rep. Hansen’s marine-jobs bill

The state’s waterways — and the jobs that depend on them — will be better protected from pollution and navigational hazards under a bill by Rep. Drew Hansen that was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Inslee.

 The signing caps a two-year effort led by Hansen to tackle the stubborn problem of derelict and abandoned boats and ships that leak oil and other pollutants into the water and also threaten safe passage by vessels large and small.

“Today our state takes a significant step to protect jobs in the shellfish, marine, and recreation industries,” Hansen said. “We’ve seen too many jobs threatened when derelict boats sink and spill chemicals in our waters. This bill speeds up getting problem boats out of the water, it makes it more likely that the boats will go to responsible owners, and it encourages owners to do the right thing and send the boats to salvage yards instead of letting them rot in Puget Sound.

“This was truly bipartisan legislation,” Hansen, a Democrat, said. “I worked very closely with Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton ) and Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe) on this issue. The bill is a testament to our ability to work across party lines to address threats to jobs in our state.”

The measure — House Bill 2457 — is designed to address the kind of incidents that have generated headlines around Puget Sound in recent years: an abandoned tugboat sinking in Eagle Harbor; a 167-foot ship going under  in Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway, dragging another ship off even keel; and the state seizing a 180-foot hulk off Port Ludlow when its owner misfired on plans to tow it to Mexico.

Hansen worked over the summer last year with Rep. Smith on the proposal to accelerate the removal of derelict vessels, increase accountability for owners of high-risk boats and prompt boat owners to dispose of vessels safely.

In the 2013 legislative session, Hansen successfully pushed a different bill to protect jobs in the marine industries by strengthening the state’s derelict-vessel program. That measure, House Bill 1245, was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law.

Hansen’s newest proposal would do more to address the problem, focusing on the bigger, older boats that are most likely to decay and become derelict. The bill is the product of a bipartisan working group convened by HB 1245 to evaluate additional steps the state could take to protect jobs by removing derelict vessels.