We often talk about the value of Congress reauthorizing the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. In fact, it’s up for reauthorization again. But we don’t always grasp what the fund does for boating. Here’s just one timely example:
The trust fund annually pays for the Clean Vessel Act program that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by announcing the awarding of $11.4 million in grants to 24 state programs for pumpout construction, renovation and education. That’s great news, no doubt. But the real story is that the trust fund has pumped nearly $200 million into the Clean Vessel Act program since its creation 20 years ago, and that has directly benefitted our industry and our customers.
“The millions of dollars for CVA is a great example of why we have worked so hard through the years to keep the trust fund reauthorized,” says Larry Innis, MRAA’s Washington-based lobbyist. “The CVA has directly helped dealers and marina operators across the country install pumpout and waste handling facilities for boaters. Everyone wins in this program — our industry, the boaters and clean water,” he emphasizes.
In addition to traditional on-dock pumpouts, projects receiving funds include pumpout boats that travel designated harbors and even the installation of floating restrooms in areas where boaters congregate and no restrooms are available.
As examples, California plans to construct or upgrade 10 floating restrooms, a pumpout station and a new pumpout boat on inland lakes visited by more than 679,000 boaters annually; Michigan will issue grants to local municipal and private marina operators to purchase/install pumpouts along its Great Lakes coasts; Florida will complete 47 pumpout projects on inland and coastal waters; In addition to eight new projects, Massachusetts will use its Clean Vessel Act grant to provide operation and maintenance funding for existing facilities managed by 85 grant recipients that operate 66 pumpout vessels, 57 shoreside pump stations and 14 dump stations; New Jersey will provide 16 new pumpout stations, one pumpout boat and one floating restroom; and the 19 other states are just as aggressive with the Clan Vessel Act funds they’re receiving.
The obvious question is: could our industry fund and accomplish all this? The answer is just as obvious. The Clean Vessel Act and its funding source (the trust fund) demand our most aggressive support when the signal is given by industry lobbyists like Innis to push for congressional reauthorization. Currently, reauthorization is included in the huge transportation bill that Congress, so far, keeps renewing for just a couple of months at a time. That’s not expected to change this year, but going forward we must be ready to battle for full, long-term reauthorization, if necessary.
Finally, to better frame the overall value and importance of the trust fund to us, the Clean Vessel Act funding is only about 2 percent of the total funds deposited into the trust fund after certain deductions. All these funds come from excise taxes on fishing equipment, the 18.3 cents federal tax per gallon on powerboat and small-engine fuels, certain import duties and interest. In all, the trust fund provides up to $600 million annually for myriad programs that benefit boating and fishing. In essence, it’s a great user-pay, user-benefit public program that returns to boaters and anglers the full benefit of their tax payment investments. So marking the 20thanniversary of the successful Clean Vessel Act program is definitely in order today.