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“Clean Boating Act:” down but not out!

We’ve known for some time that failure to get Congress to pass the “Clean Boating Act of 2008” (S. 2766/H.R. 5949) by September 30 would result in a nightmare for boating. But, until now, we didn’t really know how disagreeable the prospect would be if all boaters faced unprecedented EPA and, probably, state permitting requirements for their incidental, overboard water discharges. Today we know and it’s ugly with a capital Ug!

EPA recently published its long-awaited draft permit regulations. “What may appear quite simple on the surface will be anything but in reality,” Margaret Podlich, Vice President of Government Affairs has told her BoatUS members. “What happens if a neighbor — who perhaps may not appreciate boats — decides that you use too much biodegradable soap to wash your boat or witnesses an accidentally spilled orange juice draining out of the scuppers, or sees you wipe algae off the scum line? Under the present draft permit guidelines, all of these instances may be deemed a violation of the Clean Water Act,” explained Podlich.

It gets worse. The draft regulations would allow the EPA, the Coast Guard, a state authority or even some private contractor to inspect a boat and take discharge samples! If requested, a boater would be required to provide such government officials with information to determine permit compliance. But wait, there’s more!

The draft EPA permit also contains a worrisome provision that each state may add on its own regulations. And most menacing of all is a provision that, after the initial permitting this fall, the EPA will then outline for the states how they can implement their own permit systems!

Can anyone say: “Holy hassles, Batman, that’s bound to mean additional state permit requirements and more fees for boaters!”

Update: Matt Dunn, NMMA’s Washington point man for this issue, reported late last week Sen. Bill Nelson requested a Senate Unanimous Consent Agreement for S. 2766 which simply means, under special Senate rules, if no one objects the bill passes. However, Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) objected, saying she wanted an amendment to include larger, commercial vessels. Throughout the evening, Senators Nelson, Burr, Martinez, Boxer, Vitter and others engaged Senator Murkowski on this issue on the floor, asking her not to hold the bill but she continued her objection and the needed Unanimous Consent could not be obtained.

Accordingly, Dunn has put out an Urgent Action Call to all the industry to again contact your Senators, especially the 39 co-sponsors of the Clean Boating Act. They need to know that failure to pass the Clean Boating Act will not go unnoticed by America’s 18 million recreational boat owners and the hundreds of thousands of marine industry employees nationwide.

Call them or write them. Right now, while you’re on line, go to and send them a message that you strongly support quick passage of S. 2766/H.R. 5949, the Clean Boating Act.

Failure to get Congress to act is not an option and the deadline is now only 12 weeks away!


3 comments on ““Clean Boating Act:” down but not out!

  1. Robert Rhodes

    What will probably happen if this doesn’t pass the boaters will say ” How can this happen?? Nobody informed me”
    This Club, Greater Cleveland Boating Association, I-LYA, Boat US, & others have sent out alot of info on this subjet to have them contact their goverment officals but many probably think some one else will?????

  2. John Wisse

    In agreement with Robert, Ohio put forth much good effort to get the word out on this issue during the past year. Sadly, most boaters are like most hunters and anglers in that they fail to keep informed of current issues which significantly affect their favorite activities on land and water. Congress is the reality show on TV most people can’t stand to watch (C-Span), but is the one entity who can put an end to such regulatory nonsense. Further Norm, anyone who feels the EPA has derived a good compromise on the proposed permit language has perhaps not become familiar enough with what is being proposed by the U.S. EPA as Boat US has indicated.

  3. Capt Russ Cohen


    We here at Boatboy Marine Training are trying to do our part to get this “Clean Boating Act” passed so we don’t have to deal with these insane EPA Provisions, but, responses like the one below from my NJ Senator really make me question if we’ll succeed?

    I hope we do succeed! Boating is difficult enough and although we train people how to protect the environment while boating…..this EPA fiasco will surely bring our industry down to its lowest level. I question whether anyone reached out to the original judge and asked him to overturn his decision and correct the mistake?

    I copied the exact response I received from Senator Frank Lautenberg of NJ below, I thought your readers might be interested. Notice towards the end how “He” takes credit for getting it passed in committee!

    Thanks Norm, good luck, take care and as always, We’ll See Ya on the Water!

    Capt. Russ Cohen, Founder & President

    Thursday, July 03, 2008 11:54 AM

    Dear Mr. Cohen:

    Thank you for contacting me about the “Clean Boating Act of 2008″ (S. 2766). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

    In September 2006, a United States District Court ruling ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate ballast water discharges, and mandated a deadline of September 2008 to institute the program. While this litigation was aimed at ocean-going vessels, such as cruise ships, the court’s ruling struck down an exemption instituted in 1973 that applied to the incidental discharges from all vessels, including recreational boats.

    The “Clean Boating Act of 2008,” introduced by Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), would restore the 35-year old EPA exemption for water-based, non-polluting incidental discharges that occur in the normal operation of a recreational boat, such as weather deck run-off and engine coolant water.

    This legislation recently passed the Committee on the Environment and Public Works with my support. Please be assured that I will continue to support this legislation when it comes before the full Senate.

    Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.

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