Today, the Environmental Protection Agency published the Clean Water Act proposal in the Federal Register. The proposal will impose new, complex requirements on recreational boaters to follow specific practices in operating their boats and managing their everyday, overboard water discharges.Mandated by a court order in 2006 that focused exclusively on commercial vessel ballast water, the proposal includes draft permits that are a new regulation on American recreational boaters, demonstrating the need to pass the Clean Boating Act of 2008 as these new regulations will take effect Oct. 1, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The Clean Boating Act of 2008 would fully and permanently restore a long-standing regulation that excludes recreational boaters and anglers from the federal and state permitting requirements.
There are two proposed general EPA permits: one for boats under 79 feet, and another for recreational boats 80 feet and above. This second permit, which also encompasses commercial ships, is even more complicated than the first and makes an arbitrary and unreasonable distinction among recreational boats based on footage in order to classify them as commercial boats, according to the NMMA.
“It’s complex and boaters will now have to follow requirements that are in the permit program,” Mathew Dunn, manager of natural resource and economic policy for the NMMA, told Soundings Trade Only. “The EPA says they’re going to just automatically cover recreational boats under 79 feet. But the permit program also requires boaters to take certain actions, to do management practices; they may have to meet water quality affluent standards for their discharges.
“So they may be automatically covered by the permit, but in order to comply, how is the agency going to educate and inform the nation’s 18 million boat operators what exactly they’re supposed to do to comply with this new mandate?,” Dunn added.
Also, he said, the EPA says it can do this nationwide, which has not been tried before and could be the subject of a future lawsuit. The proposal also allows individual states to implement their own boating permits, creating the potential for mass confusion.
The EPA’s proposal also would subject boaters to $32,500 per violation, per day in penalties.
“The more you dig into the details of this proposal, the more complex it becomes,” Dunn said. “This sort of uncertainty is not acceptable. If this is the best EPA can do, it just reiterates and reemphasizes the importance of passing the Clean Boating Act as soon as possible.”
Dunn said the bills have moved out of House and Senate committees and are waiting to be scheduled for a vote in both chambers of Congress.
The NMMA strongly encourages people who care about boating to attend these meetings and share their views on why they should not be exposed to the requirements and legal jeopardy this new permit program will entail. For specific dates and locations of these meetings, visit BoatBlue.org.
— Beth Rosenberg