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Senator: Simplify boat inspections on Hudson River

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., recently announced his push to improve coordination between the Coast Guard and state and federal agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction on the Hudson River.

After media reports this summer that documented a lack of coordination among agencies that can result in the same boat being stopped multiple times a day, Schumer is pressing the Coast Guard to take a lead role in improving coordination among patrolling agencies.

“Rather than screen one boat six times, we should screen six boats one time. By streamlining our inspection process we can provide a better experience for recreational boats and free up security resources to protect nuclear power plants and bridges and ensure that the river is safe,” Schumer said in a statement. “Responsible recreational boaters should be free to enjoy the Hudson River without being stopped over and over again. We need the Coast Guard to take the lead and work with state and local authorities to come up with a system that protects our security without choking off all the fun of boating on the river. It’s not just a matter of summertime fun, but of protecting an industry that is critical to the Hudson Valley economy.”

Schumer was joined in last week’s announcement by area boating officials, business owners and boating enthusiasts.

“The quality-of-life issues surrounding boating are important to me as a business owner and recreational boater, and I applaud Sen. Schumer for calling for action. Boating isn’t only fun, its jobs, business and investment in our communities,” Mahopac Marina owner Charlie Melchner said in a statement.

“By people using their boats in the Hudson Valley lakes and rivers, it keeps people employed, keeps products flowing to customers and increases the demand for services from hundreds of small businesses throughout the region,” he added. “Ensuring customers and their families enjoy their time on our waters and experience a hassle-free day of boating means repeat tourists and customers spending more time and more money in the Hudson Valley. This all leads to more jobs and economic development in the many towns enjoying water access, and every single customer is important in these trying economic times.”

Boating advocates proposed expanding an existing inspection system to reduce the number of stoppages of Hudson Valley boaters. The Coast Guard Auxillary unit offers annual inspections that determine the basic safety of boats. If a boat is deemed safe to use, based on the security of the hull, a sufficient number of life guards and other inspection points, the boat receives a sticker for that year in the way that a car that has been inspected receives its annual sticker.

However, not all of the nearly two dozen agencies with jurisdiction over the Hudson choose to recognize that sticker as evidence that the boat is safe.

If entities with authority over the Hudson River, including state agencies and local sheriffs’ departments, recognize the stickers, it could significantly reduce the number of unnecessary stoppages. Law enforcement personnel would be permitted to stop boats that don’t have inspection stickers or boats (with stickers) that were behaving dangerously, but the stickers could serve as a signal that a boat is structurally safe, according to Schumer.

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