Letter: DPC Supports H.R. 7719, Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act of 2024

Diane Burgis, Chair (Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors)
2101 Stone Blvd., Suite 200, West Sacramento, CA 95691
(916) 375-4800 | delta.ca.gov

June 14, 2024

The Honorable John Garamendi
United States House of Representatives
2004 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Subject: Support for H.R. 7719, Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act of 2024

Dear Congressman Garamendi:

I write to express the Delta Protection Commission’s strong support for this legislation. The Commission has long advocated for removal of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) from Delta waterways, and remediation of the environmental damage ADVs cause to the rivers and sloughs that are vital to irrigating farmland, supporting recreational and commercial fisheries, and providing enjoyment in all kinds of water recreation. ADVs pose real and significant threats to public safety and property from navigation hazards, and damage to docks, marinas, and levees.

The Delta Protection Commission is a California state agency charged with protecting and enhancing the unique values of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a resource of state and national importance that, largely owing to your tireless efforts, was recognized by Congress as California’s first and so far only National Heritage Area in 2019. The Commission provides a “forum for Delta residents to engage in decisions regarding actions to recognize and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, and agricultural resources of the Delta” [Public Resources Code (PRC) § 29703.5(a)]. As such it includes representatives from city and county governments in each of the five main Delta counties, Delta reclamation districts, four state agencies and one non-voting, ex-officio member each from the Senate and Assembly.

As a primary function, the Commission maintains and oversees implementation of a comprehensive long-term Land Use and Resource Management Plan (LURMP) that includes goals and policies aimed at protecting, maintaining, enhancing, and restoring the overall quality of the Delta environment. Public Resources Code applicable to ADVs requires that the LURMP policies must “preserve and protect open-space and outdoor recreational opportunities,” “preserve and protect opportunities for controlled public access and use of public lands and waterways consistent with protection of natural resources and private property interests,” and “preserve, protect and maintain navigation” [PRC§29760 (b)(9-11)].

The Commission has worked with local law enforcement marine patrol units, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways (Boating and Waterways), State Lands Commission, Recreational Boaters of California, CalRecycle, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and other stakeholders to promote and facilitate abandoned vessel removal. The Commission’s collaborative project with the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to identify and map ADVs within the Delta in 2019 led to state legislation that provides limited funding for removal of commercial ADVs by the State Lands Commission. Additional funding by Boating and Waterways supports removal of recreational vehicles. The USCG can only remove hazards to navigation. Thus it typically falls to local law enforcement marine units with limited resources to remove non-commercial ADVs in their counties. However, the scope of all these efforts is significantly constrained, largely due to funding, and limitations on where and how federal agencies such as the USCG and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) could assist.

The Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Removal Act, H.R. 7719, would bring much needed cohesion to this patchwork management by providing additional funding and organization. Significantly, the bill would authorize the Corps to remove any abandoned vehicles regardless whether they impede navigation, and to create and maintain a national inventory of ADVs. Such an inventory could help identify more regional-based solutions and coordination in areas such as the Delta where there is overlapping jurisdiction among responsible agencies.

Thank you for your commitment to finding solutions to this complex public safety issue of concern to Delta farmers, residents, and business owners, and the many visitors who come to the Delta.


Bruce Blodgett
Executive Director

CC: The Honorable Laphonza Butler, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Alex Padilla, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Josh Harder, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Doris Matsui, U.S. Representative
The Honorable Mike Thompson, U.S. Representative