Fight against derelict boats may cost boat owners

To help harbormasters identify and clean up derelict boats, the Alaska Legislature is considering a new fee on boats longer than 24 feet.

The Alaska Senate voted last Thursday 18-2 in favor of Senate Bill 92, which requires unregistered boats over 24 feet long to have title documents. It also levies fees on barges and requires the registration of federally documented boats. Federally documented boats would not be required to have a title.

A title would cost $20 and last for life; registration would cost $24 and last for three years. For a barge, registration would be $75 and also last three years.

If also approved by the House and signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker, it would be a first step toward addressing the problem of abandoned boats along Alaska’s coasts, said its lead sponsor, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna.

“This bill will help us with a process for dealing with the issue,” he said, speaking to the full Senate Thursday. “It is a dramatic improvement of the derelict vessel problem in the state of Alaska.”

The bill does not address the issue of derelict vessels already abandoned on Alaska’s rivers, creeks and bays.

“It doesn’t fix the problem,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.

Stedman was one of two senators to vote against the bill on the Senate floor. Removing the hundreds of derelicts on Interior rivers alone will cost “tens of millions” of dollars, he said Monday.

For example, lifting the tugboat Challenger from Gastineau Channel may have cost as much as $1.7 million, money that — fortunately for the city of Juneau and the State of Alaska — came from the federal government. If the tugboat had run aground instead of sinking, the CBJ may have had to pay.

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