The 52-foot vessel Heather Ann grounded and sank in the Wrangell Narrows south of Petersburg last June. It remains on state tidelands near the busy shipping channel. (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Among the bills already filed for the upcoming legislative session is one that would offer relief from a new state registration requirement for owners of commercial fishing boats.

In 2018 the legislature approved an expansion and rewrite of the state’s Derelict Vessel Act. Among other measures it expanded the boats that are now required to register with the state, including those already documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. The 2018 law was pushed by the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators and it was meant to increase means to track ownership and responsibility for expensive clean up of abandoned boats.

The change caught fishing boat owners by surprise. Now house bill 185, by Kodiak Republican representative Louise Stutes, would exempt boats already licensed with the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman thinks that 2018 law was a waste of time and money and he’d like to repeal it entirely.

“The house will send us over that piece of legislation and maybe we’ll expand it a little bit, if I can convince enough of my colleagues and get rid of the whole program,” Stedman said during a recent interview in Sitka. “It doesn’t generate enough money to do anything of any significance dealing with derelict vessels. And if we have a derelict vessel we can appropriate money to DNR, Department of Natural Resources to got deal with it.”

Petersburg’s borough assembly and the harbormasters association passed resolutions in support of that update to exempt those boats licensed for commercial fishing.

(Editor’s note: Robert Woolsey at KCAW in Sitka contributed to this report)