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Rhode Island bill would speed removal of derelict boats

Rhode Island state lawmakers introduced legislation that would make it easier for towns to remove derelict boats abandoned on public or private waters.

It would also establish a fund, paid in part from boat registration fees, that would help pay for the removal of derelicts and any environmental costs incurred, EastBayRI.com reported.

The legislation was proposed after the town of Warren was caught up in months of legal wrangling because of Bon Moyage, a derelict aluminum yacht that plagued the upper Kickemuit River for nearly five months last year, along with another, smaller wooden derelict, Endurance.

Both were brought up the river by resident Thomas Koolen, who during the late summer, fall and early winter resisted every town attempt to compel their removal. The Warren harbormaster slapped violation notices on the boats, sent certified letters, and legal action was threatened and filed.

Finally, a storm in late December pushed the boats, and a series of 160-odd finger piers that Koolen also illegally installed, toward the shore. The storm grounded the vessels and gave the town the legal justification to remove them.

If the law goes on the books, any “abandoned” vessel left, moored or anchored on public or private water for more than 30 consecutive days, or a total of 90 days in one year’s time, would be subject to removal without the owner’s consent, if the owner could even be located.

From there, it could be auctioned, scrapped or disposed of in some other way to “derive some monetary benefit,” the legislation states. Meanwhile, owners would be fined $100 a day for every day the boat is not removed. Money from those sources would be used to recoup the costs incurred in removing the boat.

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