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Summit 2; Oceans Policy; The Boating Trust Fund

Summit follow-up: As you read this blog today, 40 representatives from broad segments of boating have gathered in Chicago for the first follow-up meeting to the Recreational Boating Stakeholders Growth Summit held last December (see Dealer Outlook).

While more than 150 people attended the first summit (including multiple attendees from the same interests), the group has been reduced to a more workable size while still representing the broad U.S. and Canadian boating spectrum.

The Growth Summit was intended to set a foundation for collaboration by the variety of boating stakeholders. It did that. The goal of today’s meeting is to continue to generate consensus for joint actions and directions, and establish a possible multi-year strategy for boating’s future success for all stakeholders.

Oceans Policy: It been out-of-sight for a while, but the very broad National Ocean Policy established by executive order by President Obama back in 2010 has been quietly percolating. As reported at that time in Dealer Outlook, the NOP will put virtually all waters of the nation under an “oceans czar” with unprecedented regulatory and oversight powers.

Last week, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, received official notice from the Obama Administration denying the chairman's request for a 90-day extension of the public comment period on the draft National Ocean Policy Implementation plan.

In an official release, Hastings said: "President Obama issued an Executive Order imposing a new bureaucracy to zone the oceans that threatens to deter new economic investment, suppress job creation, restrict even recreational fishing, block energy development, and stretch far from the shore to affect farmers and inland communities. Given the high economic stakes, the vast amounts of new red-tape set to be unrolled, and the fact that some 15 agencies spent over two years devising this scheme, it's unreasonable that the Obama Administration won't allow the American people more than just 75 days to review and comment on it." Bottom line: We in boating had better prepare for likely battles as implementation begins to be revealed on the NOP.

Boating and Fish Trust Fund: We expected the House to reject a bipartisan highway bill (see Dealer Outlook) that it received from the Senate and go for another temporary extension, the ninth such extension since 2009 when the last bill expired. Our interest in the legislation is that it’s the funding source for our Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. What wasn’t clear until now was whether the Senate leadership, claiming it would not agree to another extension from the House, would follow through. It didn’t.

Senators backed off and went for the 90-day extension of transportation funding two days before a deadline that could have shut down highway and transit projects across the nation. The good news: We have full funding for the Sport Fish/Boating Trust Fund for another three months. The bad news: We’re not secure in any long-term funding for this important and very beneficial program. The fact is it’s one of the most beneficial federally-funded programs for boating in existence! The House leaders will now use the 90 days to try to break a deadlock in their chamber that has stalled their own proposal to fund transportation by expanding offshore oil drilling.

And the political beat goes on!

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