Fighting the Good Fight

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One of our industry’s hottest sellers, boats designed to deliver perfect wakesurf waves, and boaters who cruise through Georgia could take big hits if legislation and new regulations are approved.

Earlier this month, State Sen. John Rodgers introduced legislation (SB 69) that would effectively ban wakesurfing in Vermont by prohibiting boat “plowing.” The bill would also allow and/or require the development of regulations to outright ban wake-sports boats from specific public waters.

Now in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, the bill is believed to be the first to call for a statewide ban of ballasted boats. Preventing this ill-conceived bill from becoming law is a top priority for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Watersports Industry Association and marine dealers in Vermont.

But dealers nationwide that sell towboats, indeed any boats for that matter, should be on guard for similar proposals in their states. Here’s a terrifying thought: The Vermont bill passes and becomes a model for other state. It’s not a fantasy. Here’s why.

The New Hampshire legislature has already commissioned a task force to look at wakesurfing from “every angle,” which other states could use to justify their actions and legislation. In fact, legislatures in Indiana, Idaho and Minnesota are now hearing bills related to wakesurfing. The Idaho bill would require a 200-foot buffer from shore or other structures; in Indiana the proposed buffer zone is 600 feet; and in Minnesota there’s a bill calling for 1,000 feet offshore.

In Oregon, the State Marine Board recently rejected a petition from an environmental group to close the Willamette River to wakesurf boats. However, the board acknowledged it’s in the early stages of considering rules related to wakesurfing. Accordingly, NMMA, WSIA, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and others are opposing the Minnesota and Indiana bills, though not the Idaho legislation. Lobbyists have been retained in Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho and Oregon.

Dealers and marine trade associations wanting the latest information can contact Dave Dickerson, NMMA’s vice president for state government relations, at ddickerson@nmma.org.

Don’t Drop Anchor in Georgia

Fighting the good fight for boating and boaters never ends.

BoatUS is leading a push against a new Georgia regulation restricting overnight anchoring within 1,000 feet of any structure, such as public and private docks, wharves, bridges, piers and pilings, except in areas near a marina.

How did boaters get hammered this way? There was little notice or engagement with recreational boating groups by the Georgia legislature in approving House Bill 201. It was then quietly signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The legislation directed the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to develop rules regarding the anchoring of vessels in estuarine areas of the state. DNR proposed a rule that has rightfully raised serious concerns in the boating community.

“This 1,000-foot offset needlessly eliminates anchorages all over the state,” says Chris Edmonston, vice president of government affairs for BoatUS. “It will affect numerous boaters, many of whom transit Georgia waters as part of the annual migration along the Intracoastal Waterway. There is no reasonable safety or waterway-management reason for taking such a significant swath of state waters away from the boating public.

“Boating and fishing,” Edmonston adds, “are the second largest outdoor recreational activity in Georgia, bringing in more than $500 million a year in economic activity. Eliminating scores of anchorages will put a severe damper on this very important economic driver to many coastal areas that gain from boater spending.”

He went on to acknowledge the so-called “Marina Zones” that will allow boaters to anchor as close as 300 feet to marinas or facilities that provide fuel, dinghy access, provisions, vessel maintenance or other services. But that won’t reduce the negative economic impact of this poorly crafted legislation and resulting rules.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument is the BoatUS position that the final rule runs counter to the Public Trust Doctrine as codified in Georgia law. It states:

“The State of Georgia, as sovereign, is trustee of the rights of the people of the state to use and enjoy all tidewaters which are capable of use for fishing, passage, navigation, commerce and transportation, pursuant to the common law public trust doctrine.”

BoatUS submits that anchoring is an integral part of navigation.

Georgia dealers, employees and boaters should join the efforts of the grassroots group Save Georgia’s Anchorages, which was created in response to the law.

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