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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 www.BoatBlue.org 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!

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