A small pleasure boat tore loose from somewhere and washed down the Ashley River during the historic floods two years ago. It overturned and lodged itself along the marsh outside Summerville.

That's where it lies today, barely visible at low tide and a threat to other boaters at a deeper tides. The derelict craft is not a rarity.

Hundreds of the eyesores and navigation hazards can be found along South Carolina's waterways after recent storms or from outright owner negligence. The problem keeps getting worse as the population and number of boaters grow.

The hulks have one thing in common: Nobody has the money or wherewithal to get them out.

That is, oddly enough, why state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, has introduced a bill to give sheriff departments and local governments the authority to remove and destroy the boats — not because they have the money, but because he wants to get it for them.

The bill was approved by a House committee Thursday and is expected to reach the House floor for consideration this week.

McCoy lives on James Island and represents a marsh-covered district.

"I think this is the first step to recognize this is a problem, recognize there is an issue and a need for funding," McCoy said. "It's a stepping stone to get some serious funding. We're just trying to start the conversation."

As just a few examples, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office currently has identified 16 abandoned boats in its jurisdiction. The Charleston Police Department has at least 10.

The law enforcement agencies don't seem to have a problem with the bill, just the money. The bill "gives the jurisdiction that has the problem the option to deal with it," said Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon. "The chief problem is the cost of dealing with these issues."

Abandoned boats now are handled by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, working with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and sometimes federal agencies and local marine patrols.

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn't get involved unless there's a pollution threat, while state agencies have little staff flexibility and even less budgeted money to address the problem.

Currently, to remove a boat requires attempting to identify, contact and work with the owner, then through the courts if the owner doesn't cooperate. If the owner can't pay — usually the case with an abandoned boat, law enforcement officers say — the boat must be removed on the public dime.

The price tag can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. The agencies often seek state and federal grants to help cover the cost.

DHEC has had 36 abandoned boats reported since the 2015 flood, said spokeswoman Cristi Moore.

"Vessels that are not removed by municipalities or do not qualify for reimbursement by FEMA following natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma or Matthew are added to our inventory," she said. "Unfortunately, DHEC currently does not have any grant funding available for vessel removal."

In 2015, Charleston spent about $134,000 to pull 12 abandoned boats from the Ashley River. Most of that money came from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant channeled through DHEC. Within two years, another half dozen or so were out there, apparently dislodged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

"We are currently waiting on possible funding announcement from DHEC, through NOAA. We have submitted a grant application for matching funding," said Charleston Police Sgt. Chad Womack, who heads up the marine patrol.

"There's a greater demand (for removals) than there is a supply (of funding) right now," said Jarrod Bruder, the South Carolina Sheriffs' Association director.

McCoy said if the bill passes, it could open the way for the Legislature to budget funds, or at least give local jurisdictions more authority to seek them.

"I want to give them an option, to provide some help," he said.

"If the assistance is needed I'm willing to do it, if they could provide some money to do it," said Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight. "My budget is so tight right now I can't breathe."

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.