Ohio boating groups hold legislative conference

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Three trade groups and three boat owner organizations gathered on March 11 in Columbus, Ohio, for the Boating Associations of Ohio (BAO) annual legislative conference, BAO reported in a recent statement.

Representatives from the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, Central Ohio Marine Dealers Association, Southern Ohio Marine Trades Association, Greater Cleveland Boating Association, Associated Yacht Clubs, Inter-Lake Yachting Association, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft and various other groups discussed the current issues faced by boaters, according to the association.

Republican state senators Mark Wagoner and Bill Seitz spoke in the morning on topics ranging from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Compact to the governor’s bond issue proposal. Both stated they were in favor of fellow senator Tim Grendell’s revised version of the Compact, which rewrites a passage regarding underground aquifers in theory to protect landowner property rights, the association reported. Grendell argued that the original language contradicted Ohio law. The original version of the Compact was recently passed in the Ohio House by a vote of 90-3.

“Water diversions outside the Great Lakes basin are currently prohibited under federal law until 2010,” Wagoner said, “but the Compact will ensure water protection remains in place no matter what Congress decides to do in the future.”

BAO members voiced their concern that revision of the Compact will add unnecessary delays and concluded that they are in favor of Ohio’s passage of the original Compact that was drafted by the eight Great Lakes state governors and Canadian officials.

During lunch, members of the legislature came over from the statehouse and sat at regionally-designated roundtables with the conference participants.

A presidential election debate between state representatives Chris Redfern (Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party) and Kevin DeWine (Deputy Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party) was staged after lunch. Redfern represents the Lake Erie islands area of Ottawa and Erie counties that has the highest number of boats per capita and greatest density of boats per acre of water in the entire Great Lakes Basin, stated the association.

ODNR Director Sean Logan provided the keynote address for the day. He said his department joined BAO in support of the original Great Lakes Compact and that it was intentionally vaguely written so as not to impact state property rights.

He also introduced his decision to move the State Scenic Rivers Program from the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves to the Division of Watercraft, reported the association. BAO members questioned the move, worried that the transfer would divert funding for boating to a river preservation program.

BAO was established in 1986 to unify Ohio’s recreational boating industry with individual boat owners in order to strengthen boating’s voice in state policy. Its member trade groups represent more than 500 dealers, marina operators and other organizations on the Ohio River, Lake Erie and inland bodies of water. For more information on the issues discussed, visit the BAO Web site at boatingassociations.com.

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