A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Making the same mistakes

Why do we make the same mistakes over and over again? Last week was my first blog entry for Soundings Trade Only, and I submitted it without a headline. I left it to someone else to write the headline. That was my mistake.

I agree there were two lines in my entry that justified the headline “Gas Prices Not a Deterrent.”  But that wasn’t my intended message. I am not disconnected from reality! 

As Memorial Day approaches, media coverage of boating rises dramatically. In my first blog entry, I was trying to suggest some talking points that present a silver lining for boating. We don’t have to be completely defeatist when we speak to the media because there are certainly some positive messages we can deliver.

As an industry, we’re about to make the same mistake we’ve made before with Congress. Too many are doing too little to help fix the EPA permitting issue for boaters.  The recreational boating industry directly employs upwards of 250,000 people. There are 12 million registered boats in the U.S.  Last year, nearly 60 million adult Americans went boating.

But despite these impressive figures, we can only document approximately 17,000 people—including industry members and boaters—that have emailed their Senators and Representative to urge them to enact S. 2766 and H.R. 5949 (The Clean Boating Act of 2008) into law. 

S. 2766 today passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (see today’s story on Trade Only’s e-mail newsletter.)  An identical companion bill, H.R. 5949, passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week. We have opposition to this legislation. Because of the partisan nature of D.C. politics, Congress is often unable to move legislation. They do listen to their constituents, though; however, they’re not hearing from enough people on this issue.

Even if S.2766 does pass out of the EPW Committee today, the bills still must be voted on the floor of the House and the Senate. If anyone is successful in amending one of the bills, they go to a conference committee. Then, if finally approved, the legislation must be signed into law by the President.

There are approximately 130 days left until September 30, the permitting deadline. With recesses for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and the Fall elections, Congress will likely work less than a quarter of those days. You do the math. Time is running out!

Without this legislation, on October 1 of this year EPA will put in place a permitting system for several common discharges from boats (engine cooling water, bilge water, grey water, deck runoff, water from bait wells and more). Worst case scenario: Recreational boaters will be required to pay large permitting fees in every state in which they operate their boat. 

Best case scenario: A general permit will be required that identifies best practices recreational boaters must follow. In either case, the worst part is that a provision of the Clean Water Act allows your neighbor to bring a citizen lawsuit against you for failing to follow those best practices, and the fine for violating this permitting (in accordance with the Clean Water Act) is $32,000 per day.

If we think business is bad today, wait until every boater has to obtain an EPA permit for hundreds of dollars for each boat they own and in each state they boat!  Or, wait until the first boater gets fined $32,000 a day for a harmless water discharge from his or her boat!

We wound up with a luxury tax because the industry failed to communicate to members of Congress that the tax would be devastating to our businesses. Are we going to make the same mistake again with EPA permitting?

Don’t wait for someone else to contact your senators and representative. Visit www.BoatBlue.org today; do it right now while you are online reading this! Click the “Take Action” button and send your elected officials a letter that has already been drafted for you. Then ask each of your employees to do it, too. It takes less than 10 minutes. Or, better yet, call your Senator’s and Representative’s offices and tell them it’s important to you, your employees and your customers that they support  and enact S. 2766 and H.R. 5949.

There is nothing more important to your business today than taking this simple action!


6 comments on “Making the same mistakes

  1. Island Boy

    Nice recovery Thom, however I might argue if you are in-touch with reality or not. You have made several good points in your follow-up.

    Not to be offensive, sometimes it seems you really don’t represent many/most of us within the marine industry. Yes, the NMMA has positioned itself to hold many of the industry boat/trade show events. So you could throw that right back at me and rightfully so. But it seems that you serve other masters than those of us who really need the NMMA to be on our team, not talk down to the very industry you supposedly represent. Do you lead the NMMA as a marine industry committed led organization or simply going through the motion(s) to make your own internal numbers and bench marks all while constantly justifying yourselves? You tell me! Do you have any idea what has happened to the marine industry since you launched “Grow Boating”? If so, have you re-read your own words that you have delivered to the industry since that time? Do you see a significant disconnect from reality? What has happened to the big publicly traded companies who depend on you to deliver growth in boating since launching Grow Boating? Exactly. Thom I’m calling on you to suspend all pressed down forms of revenue collection intended for the Grow Boating immediately. I’m asking Industry leaders to have the courage to put the appropriate pressure on you to make this happen ASAP. Face it Thom, your “G.B” initiative has now become part of the problem not the solution.

    Who has the courage to tell major OEM’s, & their dealers that people are leaving boating faster than they are coming into a boating life style as a result of shoddy products and even worse customer service. That’s right, we the industry are a huge part of the problem. How do we stop the bleeding? Shouldn’t we fix this before we fund those feel good Grow Boating ads? When considering the amount of funding the NMMA has received for Grow Boating versus the obvious results, it is a huge cash cow for that NMMA and a loser for the marine Industry. Care to respond? Do you have the courage to openly realize that Grow Boating isn’t working?

  2. Thom Dammrich

    Dear Island Boy, I would love to speak with you about your reply to my blog. Please give me a call at 312-946-6220 or email me directly at tdammrich@nmma.org. I welcome calls or emails from anyone who would like to talk about these matters. Thanks.

  3. Island Boy


    Thank you for sharing your direct contact information, I have spoken with you personally in the past.

    I mentioned your offering of direct contact to one of my colleagues as a response to my comments and he reminded me of the true purpose for being involved in an open forum. I thank the good people of Soundings for trying to create a forum whereby all can participate and chime in with what ever is on ones mind. Mind you, one must be careful because of the political nature of our industry for fear of their jobs and or reputation. If certain comments are inappropriate, one can expect to suffer, however if the dialog is one simply of differing opinions, then I would hope that this environment allows for people of all levels to be able “to agree to disagree”.

    I’m glad that our dialog has taken a turn to bring this important issue to light. For a long time, Soundings Trade Blog has suffered from lack of industry involvement for people’s fear of reprisals from others. Of course posters, like you take a risk in this environment from those who take pot shots. You could accuse me of doing that to you, however if you spend time on any online forum all of this is true and this blog needs to be the same environment.

    I read your next post “PR Key to Promoting” and couldn’t resist feeling that your topic was to some degree a response to some of the negative issues I raised with you….. Frankly, I totally agree with the points you raised in that piece. I’m not a negative guy, only one that knows you cannot begin to improve until you accept what is wrong or broke. Considering this is an industry blog, it is fair to discuss ALL topics that one might view as a deterrent to growing and expanding our market share for leisure spend dollars.

  4. Do Care

    I do not care for the amount of money that is being taken for the Grow Boating campaign. It isn’t that I think it is a bad idea but, I feel the implementation is poor at best.

    I will admit that I am not following the NMMA closely on this program but, several questions come to mind:

    Was there staff increases at the NMMA due to this program?
    What pecentage of the take goes directly to the public consumption?
    Are certain markets taking a much greater share of the loot than others?
    Does this program have a results review?

    I am a small dealership and must keep controls on the outflow of money. I am not sure if this is a concern of NMMA.

    Do Care

  5. Island Boy

    Do Care: You share some great points. I would like to know who in the industry is benefitting from Grow Boating other than the NMMA, if anyone can help shed positive light on this it would be helpful.

    The NMMA might tell us that they have collected data (I would be suspect), but what builder, dealer, engine manufacturer, equipment manufacturer can honestly put their finger on Grow Boating helping them grow/expand their business? The fees collected get pressed down on dealers like “Do Care” and they don’t always understand that they are paying for it more than any other one entity within the marine industry….

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