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California bill strips use of boater funds

The California legislature passed a bill that initially sought to use a boater-financed fund to help thwart erosion-based flooding, but the measure no longer uses the state Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund.

“RBOC is very appreciative with the amendments made to SB 436 on Sept. 11 before the bill proceeded through the legislature at the end of session,” Recreational Boaters of California director of government relations Jerry Desmond Jr. wrote in a letter to members.

However, the boater advocacy group still opposes the bill, as does the National Marine Manufacturers Association and BoatUS.

“While RBOC has not yet removed our opposition to SB 436 at this moment, we do confirm and acknowledge that the amendment resolves our most significant issue: opening up the boater-financed state Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund for a non-boating purpose: the prevention of damage to streets and property within cities caused by beach erosion and flooding,” RBOC president Jack Michael said in the letter.

“The remaining provision in SB 436 would still authorize a grant or loan of $1,000,000 from the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund to pay for emergency measures to prevent flood damage and erosion to streets and property along Hueneme Beach. This is not a use that directly benefits the boaters who pay their hard-earned taxes and registration fees into the fund.”

The bill passed Sept. 11 and is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval. Brown has until mid-October to act on the measure, according to the website of state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.

The NMMA called the bill “a raid” on the California boater fund in its legislative newsletter.

“Boat registration fees, fuel taxes and other proceeds from recreational boating activities fund the HWRF, which helps pay for docks, vessel sewage pumpouts and boat ramps throughout the state,” the letter read. “Many of these state dollars are matched by federal funds, making these dedicated boater taxes that much more valuable.”

The group was “fervently opposed” to the original version of the bill. However, a last-minute “friendly amendment” was included to make it more favorable to boaters.

As amended, the bill requires the appropriation to be used only for erosion control projects for which a permit has been approved by the California Coastal Commission.

Click here for the amended version of the bill.

— Reagan Haynes

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