1997 Regular Session
To: Ports and Marine Resources; Appropriations
By: Senator(s) Gollott
Senate Bill 2877
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 49-15-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE STATE FUNDS TO BE USED TO PAY FOR THE REMOVAL OF DERELICT VESSELS IF FUNDS ARE AVAILABLE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 49-15-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
49-15-13. (1)(a) The department may remove from the coastal wetlands, as defined in Section 49-27-5(a), Mississippi Code of 1972, any vessel which is derelict, having been relinquished, deserted or left by the owner with the intention of abandoning the vessel. Any vessel submerged in or on the coastal wetlands in excess of ninety (90) days is hereby declared abandoned and a derelict vessel.
(b) Any owner or operator of a derelict vessel shall be liable to the State of Mississippi for the restoration of all affected coastal wetlands and all costs associated with the removal of the vessel.
(2)(a) If the last known owner or operator of a derelict vessel is ascertainable, the owner or operator shall be notified by certified mail to remove the derelict vessel and restore the affected coastal wetlands within thirty (30) days of the date of the notice. Failure to remove the vessel may result in the imposition of the damages provided in subsection (3).
(b) When the owner or operator of the derelict vessel is unknown or cannot be located after diligent search and inquiry, notice shall be given by publishing in a newspaper having general circulation in the county where the derelict vessel is located the intent to remove and dispose of the derelict vessel. The notice shall be published once a week for three consecutive weeks. The derelict vessel may be removed ten (10) days after the last date of publication. The municipality or county where the vessel is located may remove the derelict vessel or request the department to contract for the removal of the derelict vessel. The cost of the removal of the derelict vessel shall be paid with any state, county or municipal funds * * *. Any derelict vessel salvaged may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of without additional notice to the owner or operator and the value thereof, if any, applied as an offset to the cost of the removal of the derelict structure and restoration of the affected coastal wetlands.
(c) If an owner or operator is subsequently identified, the owner or operator shall be liable for double the cost of the removal of the derelict vessel and the restoration of the affected coastal wetlands, attorneys fees and all costs of court. Upon recovery of these damages, the county, * * * municipality or state, as the case may be, shall be reimbursed the costs of the removal of the derelict vessel and restoration of the coastal wetlands.
(d) In addition to providing notice by publication or to the known owner or operator, notice shall be sent by mail to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for a determination as to whether the vessel to be removed is of archaeological, historical or architectural significance under the state antiquities law. The Department of Archives and History shall respond within thirty (30) days to the notice and advise whether or not the vessel should be preserved.
(3) The chancery court of the county where the vessel is located shall have jurisdiction and by writ of mandatory injunction order the removal of the derelict vessel by the owner or operator and shall allow a reasonable time for completion of the restoration of the coastal wetlands and removal of the derelict vessel and may, in its discretion, order as damages a sum not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) per day for each day such violation has existed. The chancery court may further order as damages a sum not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) per day for each day that the violation exists beyond the date set by the court in its injunction for the removal of the vessel and the restoration of the coastal wetlands. Additionally, the owner or operator shall be liable for reasonable attorneys fees and all costs of court.
(4) Any reimbursed cost of removal and any fines and damages collected in excess of the cost of the removal of the derelict vessel and the restoration of the affected coastal wetlands shall be deposited in a special fund in the State Treasury to be known as the "Derelict Vessel Fund." The fund shall be administered by the department. Any funds deposited in the fund shall be used to cover the administrative costs and removal costs incurred by the department, county or municipality for the removal of derelict vessels. Any remaining funds shall be used as a match for municipal and county funds to cover the costs of removing additional derelict vessels.
(5) The department is authorized to enter into contracts with individuals, firms and corporations for the removal of derelict vessels. The salvage value, if any, of the derelict vessel may be used to offset the cost of the removal of the vessel and the restoration of the coastal wetlands.
(6) The commission shall adopt rules and regulations necessary and appropriate to carry out the provisions of this section. The commission may also enter into interstate or intrastate efforts toward this end, and may seek and utilize aid from all federal, state and local sources in this endeavor.
(7) The State of Mississippi, the department and their employees and representatives shall not be liable for any damage resulting from the removal, sale or disposal of any vessel declared a derelict vessel pursuant to this section.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.