Parish may crack down on owners of abandoned boats

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Terrebonne Parish officials are considering a law to crack down on owners of sunken boats who abandon the vessels and leave the parish with the bill for removal.

If approved, the ordinance will authorize officials who find sunken vessels to identify the owners and issue warnings. If a warning is ignored, a citation would be issued. Possible penalties include a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

The Courier reports that current parish law allows sunken boats to sit for 60 days, after which the parish would declare abandonment and gain ownership. But original owners are not punished if they don't remove the boats.

A public hearing on the tougher ordinance is set for May 23.

Over the past three years the parish has worked to remove more than 200 sunken or partially sunken boats, 72 of which were a result of hurricanes.

"During the process we've found seven new derelict vessels in our bayous," Parish President Michel Claudet said. "We have to do something about it or else we'll have them all over our waterways. We need strict enforcement on this."

Jack Gardner, the manager of the parish Geographic Information System Division, said the removal of so many vessels has carried a hefty price tag. So far, the parish has spent about $1 million on the project, money from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)