Abandonment of vessels prohibited
- Civil violation. A person shall not abandon a vessel on public waters or immediately adjacent land. A person who violates this subdivision shall be subject to civil enforcement under chapters 201 and 211 of this title and, in any such enforcement action, the Secretary may obtain an order to recover costs specified in subdivision (d)(1) of this section incurred by the Agency of Natural Resources.
- Criminal violation. A person shall not knowingly abandon a petroleum-powered vessel or knowingly abandon a vessel that poses an imminent threat to navigation or to public health or safety. A person who violates this subdivision shall be subject to a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Removal of an abandoned vessel
Upon request from a law enforcement officer or at his or her own initiative, the Secretary shall promptly cause the removal and safe storage of a vessel that is abandoned as described in subdivision (a)(1) of this section, unless the vessel is to be removed by a federal agency. If removal is requested by a law enforcement officer, the Secretary shall make reasonable efforts to determine if the vessel qualifies as abandoned. In addition, the Secretary shall have the authority to take actions as may be necessary to eliminate risks to public health or safety caused by the condition of the vessel.
Responsibility for costs; lien
- The owner of a vessel removed under the authority of this section shall be responsible for reasonable:
- removal costs;
- cleanup and disposal costs;
- storage costs incurred after the storage operator sends the Department of Motor Vehicles a notice of removal consistent with subdivision (e)(1) of this section; and
- costs of enforcing this section borne by the Secretary.
- Costs for which an owner is responsible under subdivision (d)(2)(A) of this section shall be a lien on the vessel held by the person who incurred the costs. Nothing in this subdivision (d)(2)(B) shall be construed to modify any rights or authority to recover such costs that may exist under any other provision of law.
Limitation on liability
Except in the case of intentionally inflicted damages, the Secretary shall not be liable to the owner or lienholder of an abandoned vessel for any damages to the vessel incurred during its removal or storage, or as a result of actions taken to eliminate risks to public health or safety caused by the condition of the vessel, in accordance with this section.
Notice of removal and place of storage
Within three business days of the date of removal of an abandoned vessel, the storage operator shall send notice to the Commissioner of:
- the federal, state, or foreign registration number, and the hull identification number, of the vessel, if any;
- a description of the vessel, including its color, size, and, if available, its manufacturer's trade name and manufacturer's series name;
- the date of removal and the location from where the vessel was removed;
- the name and contact information of an individual at the Agency of Natural Resources who can provide information about the vessel's removal and how to reclaim it; and
- the periodic storage charges that will apply, if any.
The Commissioner shall post and maintain on the website of the Department of Motor Vehicles a listing of vessels removed under the authority of this section with the information received under subdivision (1) of this subsection.
Disposition following removal
- As used in this subdivision:
- A "notice of intent" shall include the information described in subdivision (e)(1) of this section and an indication of the storage operator's intent to take ownership or otherwise dispose of an abandoned vessel.
- The term "address" shall mean the plural "addresses" if more than one address is ascertained.
- Within 30 days after the date of removal of the abandoned vessel, a storage operator shall:
- Cause a notice of intent to be published in the environmental notice bulletin under 3 V.S.A. § 2826.
- Make reasonable efforts to ascertain the address of the owner and any lienholder and, if the address is ascertained, send the notice of intent to the address by certified mail, return receipt requested. Reasonable efforts shall include inquiring of the person in control of the waters or land from which the abandoned vessel was removed, the clerk of the municipality in which the waters or land is located, the State Police, the Office of the Secretary of State, and the Department of Motor Vehicles as to the identity and address of the owner and any lienholder.
- Ownership of the vessel shall pass to the storage operator free of all claims of any prior owner or lienholder if the owner or lienholder has not reclaimed the vessel and paid all costs authorized under subdivision (d)(2) of this section within 60 days after the later of:
- publication in the environmental notice bulletin under 3 V.S.A. § 2826; or
- if the address of the owner or lienholder is ascertained, the date the notice of intent is mailed.
- If ownership passes to the storage operator under this subsection, the storage operator may sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of the vessel. However, if the vessel is subject to titling under 23 V.S.A. chapter 36, the storage operator shall apply to the Commissioner for a title or salvage title as may be appropriate, and the Commissioner shall issue an appropriate title or salvage title, at no charge, if the storage operator offers sufficient proof that ownership of the vessel lawfully passed to the storage operator under this section.
Owner and lienholder rights
An owner or lienholder of an abandoned vessel removed from public waters or immediately adjacent land under this section may contest the removal, transfer of title, or other disposition of a vessel under this section, and the necessity or reasonableness of any costs described in subdivision (d)(2) of this section, by petitioning the Secretary. The contested case provisions of 3 V.S.A. chapter 25 shall govern any matter brought under this subsection. A person aggrieved by a final decision of the Secretary may appeal the decision to the Civil Division of the Superior Court. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to interfere with the right of an owner or lienholder to contest these issues in any enforcement action brought by the Secretary.