BoatUS urged boaters Tuesday to oppose a bill in the North Carolina legislature that it said would significantly increase registration fees on recreational boats to raise revenue for coastal dredging projects.
BoatUS said that although it is dedicated to preserving waterway access, it believes the bill places an unfair financial burden on recreational boaters while ignoring the responsibility of commercial fishing boats and for-hire charter fishing and head boats.
Under the legislation, BoatUS said, boaters who operate only on North Carolina’s lakes and rivers would pay for projects they will never use. BoatUS urged opposition to the bill as drafted, which it said is before the state Senate Finance Committee and could be heard at any time.
A report at www.wtci12.com said three Republican senators are sponsoring the bill, which would change the way the registration fees are structured.
They currently are $15 for one year and $40 for three years, regardless of the size of the boat. Under the new bill, the fees would be based on the lengths of the vessels.
The one-year registration fees would be as follows:
• Boats less than 14 feet long — $15
• Boats 14 to 19-feet long — $25
• Boats 20 to 25 feet long — $50
• Boats 26 to 40 feet long — $100
• Boats longer than 40 feet — $150
The three-year registration fees would be as follows:
• Boats less than 14 feet long — $45
•Boats 14 to 19 feet long — $75
• Boats 20 to 25 feet long — $150
• Boats 26 to 39 feet long — $300
• Boats longer than 40 feet — $450
"I think they should keep them the way they are," Kevin O’Conner, who owns a 23-foot boat, told the TV station. "If they keep raising them, then people will stay off the water. It's bad enough what you have to pay on fees. I enjoy taking my family out on the boat and if they keep increasing fees, it will be harder to do."
Sponsors of the bill said shallow inlet dredging projects are an issue of statewide importance, as many travel to the coast for boating recreation. Lawmakers said the increased boat fees would generate $6 million every year to help keep "boat highways" clean.
Boat owner Bob Ethridge said he supports the higher boat fees. He said it would give owners of larger boats the ability to come and leave the inlets as they please.
"I think it is a great idea to raise the price,” Ethridge said. ”I don't mind paying extra, as long as they take the tax and put it towards dredging."