'Highway Bill for Boaters'
President signs legislation important to recreational boaters
The Port of Rochester, N.Y., is one of many ports on the Great Lakes with a mix of commercial shipping and recreational boating activity. (Capt. Jacob Van Reenen photo)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Acknowledging that recreational boating is a significant contributor to the nation’s economy as well as a growth engine for local communities, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation this week that recognizes that the Federal government needs to do more to help small harbors, address longstanding dredging issues, and improve boating and navigation infrastructure.
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) applauds the passing of the 2013 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) and thanks the bill’s sponsors, Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Nick Rahall, III (D-WV) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and David Vitter (R-LA), and the President. BoatUS was an active advocate for WRRDA and will be working on its implementation.
“Maintenance dredging for small harbors and shallow-draft channels has been chronically underfunded,” BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Coordinator David Kennedy said. “In addition, funding for infrastructure such as jetties and some inland navigation locks has been significantly curtailed.
“The 2013 WRRDA Act directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider factors beyond total tonnage shipped in making dredging funding decisions, requires that not less than 10 percent of the value of operation and maintenance funds be directed to ‘Emerging Harbors’ or those that have less than one million tons of cargo shipped annually, and directs the Army Corps to report to Congress on the maintenance needs of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.”
Also, WRRDA for the first time treats the Great Lakes as one single comprehensive navigation system, potentially allowing funding for dredging of smaller harbors. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps is directed to study potential new revenue sources for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund – and are required to consult recreational users, among other stakeholders.
“From small West Coast ports to Great Lakes harbors of refuge, inland locks, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, boat owners depend on federal waterway infrastructure projects to keep them safe and provide authorized waterways deep enough for us to navigate,” Kennedy said. “With 12 million registered boats in the U.S. and over 80 million persons participating in boating, we also need to remember that boating generates $121 billion in U.S. economic activity and over 950,000 jobs.”
BoatUS is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters, providing its over half-million members with government representation and services such as 24-hour dispatch and on water boat and trailer towing.