Congress approves $1.4 trillion spending package

Just before the holiday break, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2020, which includes nearly all the recreational boating industry’s top funding priorities. The NMMA outlined the industry’s requests earlier this year, advocating for programs vital to promoting and protecting boating access and local economies that depend on the industry.

The final spending package includes funding for federal agencies that have a significant impact on the industry and important initiatives like Everglades and Great Lakes restoration, marine sanctuaries, Modern Fish Act implementation, and combatting aquatic invasive species.

Additionally, the outdoor recreation community is grateful for the inclusion of a study that would identify how much the federal government invests in outdoor recreation – an effort led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). NMMA led efforts to increase federal investments in agencies that manage and promote outdoor recreation, including the U.S. Forest Service which received a substantial increase in funding for wildfire suppression – a priority for the outdoor recreation community.

Securing funding for these programs has been a top NMMA priority, and the association expressed its appreciation toward Congress’s work to approve these funding measures.

Brief summaries of the specific provisions are below:

Department of Commerce

  • The spending package provides $1.5 million for the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account – which continues the department’s analysis highlighting the impact that outdoor recreation has on the U.S. economy – and directs the Government Accountability Office to identify federal programs that directly impact outdoor recreation.
  • The legislation provides $3 million for Modern Fish Act implementation, supporting efforts to improve fishery data collection.
  • The funding measure also provides $63 million for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, including $7.5 million for NOAA’s efforts to improve and enhance recreational anglers’ and boaters’ experiences in National Marine Sanctuaries.

Department of the Interior

  • The spending package provides $320 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) – which is a $20 million increase above current levels. GLRI is a critical program that works to protect and restore the Great Lakes through the prevention of aquatic invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and habitat restoration.
  • The legislation also provides $25 million – which is a $14 million increase above current funding levels – for efforts to help prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • The spending package provides robust funding for many of the U.S. Army Corps’ projects that are critically important to recreational boaters, such as $200 million for restoring the Everglades through South Florida Ecosystem Restoration program; $40.2 million for navigation maintenance; $55 million for inland waterway modernization; and $65 million for projects at small or subsistence harbors. These critical programs help improve the navigation on and access to the nation’s public waterways.
  • The bill directs the U.S. Army Corps to study alternative solutions for disposal of dredged materials that can provide economic and environmental benefits.

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