BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  April 18, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION


                                 Jim Frazier, Chair


          AB 2092  
          (Frazier) - As Introduced February 17, 2016


          SUBJECT:  Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund:  grants


          SUMMARY:  Allows Watercraft Abatement Fund (AWAF) revenues to be  
          used for the removal of abandoned commercial vessels.   
          Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Deletes the prohibition on using AWAF revenues to for  
            abatement, removal, storage, or disposal of commercial  
            vessels.


          2)Makes related, clarifying amendments.


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Makes it an infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of  
            $3,000, for a person to abandon a vessel on a public waterway  
            or public or private property without express or implied  
            consent of the owner or person in control of the property,  
            with the exception for the urgent and immediate concern for  
            the safety on board the vessel.









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          2)Requires that 80% of fines imposed and collected for  
            abandoning recreational vessels be deposited in AWAF


          3)Authorizes AWAF revenues to be used, upon appropriation by the  
            Legislature, for grants to local agencies to, among other  
            things, the removal of specified vessels determined to be a  
            public nuisance.


          4)Requires that in reviewing AWAF grant proposals that weight be  
            placed on the existence of an active local enforcement program  
            to control and prevent the abandonment of watercraft within  
            the local agencies jurisdiction and the existence of a  
            submerged navigational hazard abatement plan.


          5)Requires that grant awards be matched by a 10% contribution  
            from the local agency receiving the grant.


          6)Prohibits AWAF grants from being used to abate, remove, store,  
            or dispose of commercial vessels.


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown



          COMMENTS:  AWAF was created in 1998 and is funded with proceeds  
          from vessel fuel taxes, vessel registration fees, yacht and ship  
          broker and sales person licensing fees, as well as fines  
          collected pursuant to laws prohibiting vessel abandonment.  AWAF  
          is used to provide grants to public agencies to fund the  
          abatement of non-commercial abandoned vessels, as specified, as  
          well as marine debris or any other partially submerged objects  
          that pose a navigation hazard.  According to the Department of  
          Boating and Waterways (DBW), AWAF funds cannot be used to abate  








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          commercial vessels because the fund was created by and revenues  
          collected from recreational boaters for the express use of  
          abating recreational vessels.  According to the Governor's  
          budget, AWAF is projected to be $1.74 million in the 2016/17  
          fiscal year.

          When a local jurisdiction wishes to remove a qualifying  
          abandoned vessel, they can apply for AWAF grant funds, which,  
          when awarded by DBW, require a 10% match (or contribution) from  
          the local agency receiving the grant.  According to the sponsor,  
          the California Sheriffs' Association, because only  
          non-commercial abandoned vessels qualify for AWAF grants, and  
          because local jurisdictions typically lack funds for vessel  
          abatement, many commercial vessels are not promptly removed.  As  
          a result, over time, the vessels sink and disintegrate.  The  
          sponsor notes that once the vessel is submerged and  
          disintegrated, a local jurisdiction can, at that time, apply for  
          AWAF revenues because the vessel is then considered "marine  
          debris," and a qualifying use of AWAF revenues.  

          The author and the sponsor contend that allowing these  
          commercial vessels to sink and disintegrate not only pollutes  
          the waterways with fuel and other chemicals (e.g., battery  
          acids, and other products), it also creates boating strike  
          hazards because the vessels (which can lie just underneath the  
          surface) often go undetected by passing vessels.  The sponsor  
          contends that it makes no sense to allow these vessels to  
          deteriorate before AWAF grant monies can be used.  They also  
          argue that this practice is more costly and results in severe  
          environmental damage.  For example, the sponsor provided an  
          example where an abandoned commercial vessel could have been  
          abated at a cost of $10,000 by a local jurisdiction but instead  
          the local jurisdiction was awarded a $48,500 AWAF grant for  
          abatement of that same vessel after the vessel sank and became  
          "marine debris."  The sponsor also contends that it makes more  
          sense to remove vessels that present a strike hazard or  
          environmental impacts regardless of their commercial or  
          non-commercial status.









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          Writing in opposition to AB 2092, the Recreational Boaters of  
          California (RBOC) points out that opening up boater fuel tax and  
          registration fee revenues in AWAF to abate commercial vessels  
          would quickly deplete the fund since these vessels are  
          significantly more expensive to remove.  RBOC points out that  
          since commercial vessels do not contribute to fund; recreational  
          vessel abatement should take priority.  RBOC and a number of  
          private citizens contend that other state and local agencies  
          have the financial resources and expertise to address the  
          abatement of abandoned commercial vessels, namely CalRecycle's  
          Solid Waste Cleanup Trust Fund and the State Water Resources  
          Control Board's Cleanup and Abatement Account.   





          A number of private citizens, also writing in opposition to this  
          bill, contend that commercial vessels, while clearly  
          representing a danger on California waterways, are easily  
          identified and, therefore, the owners of these vessels should be  
          required to pay the abatement and clean-up costs.   





          Committee comments:  The AWAF was created to help local  
          jurisdictions remove abandoned vessels and eliminate associated  
          health and safety risks.  While recreational vessel fees sustain  
          the fund, it seems that removal of hazardous vessels, regardless  
          of their status, would benefit all waterway users.  If existing  
          funds are insufficient to fully address what appears to be a  
          significantly greater need, expanding AWAF funding to encompass  
          additional source fees may be worth consideration. 










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          Previous legislation:  Senate Bill 172 (Rainey), Chapter 930,  
          Statutes of 1997, expanded the authority of local officials to  
          remove and dispose of wrecked vessels on public waterways.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          California Sheriffs' Association (Sponsor)




          Opposition


          Recreational Boaters of California


          Sportsmen Yacht Club


          115 private citizens 




          Analysis Prepared by:Victoria Alvarez / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093










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