Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the national advocacy, services and safety group with more than 700,000 members, weighed in on a range of boating issues, debates and legislation affecting recreational boaters in 2020.
Here are some of the successes that BoatUS earned over the past year:
The Sport Fish Restoration Program
Paid for by purchases of fishing equipment, boat fuels and import duties, the highly successful user-pay, user-benefit Sport Fish Restoration Program keeps recreational boating and fishing running like clockwork. U.S. Coast Guard funding for boating safety and education programs, fishing and conservation efforts, boating access such as launch ramps, and law enforcement are all kept alive by this U.S. Fish and Wildlife-managed fund. Securing its reauthorization prior to its September 2021 expiration will be a top goal in the new year, as will working with the next Congress and administration to safeguard this crucial resource for boaters.
Water Resources Development Act
On Capitol Hill, recreational boating has long held a back seat when legislators debate funding for water resources such as harbor and waterway maintenance – but that’s changing. Greater awareness of recreational boating’s impact is helping frame the debate. BoatUS has advocated for “set-asides” to include funds targeting recreational boating needs such as improved access or navigation for smaller harbors. On the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), an important snowbird route, BoatUS worked with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, Congress and the U.S. Army Corps Engineers to increase funds for shallow draft channels. Funding for AIWW in 2021 was increased more than 300% from the president’s original budget.
An April 22 decision by the Federal Communications Commission gave mobile satellite services Ligado Networks permission to operate a mobile telephone service that could interfere with the GPS signal. Along with the Keep GPS Working Coalition, BoatUS was actively engaged in lobbying Congress and the administration to attempt to reverse this decision and protect the integrity of GPS. We will continue to demand language requiring an additional review of this decision within the National Defense Authorization Act.
Renewable Fuel Standard – Misfueling Mitigation
Reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires Americans to consume increasing amounts of higher-ethanol fuels such as E15 (prohibited for use in boats), remains deadlocked. BoatUS advocated at the Environmental Protection Agency for additional consumer protections from misfueling of boats with E15 and has supported ethanol alternatives such as biobutanol, helping to ease its path to market. In 2021 new efforts to reform this broken policy are likely, and BoatUS with continue to work with partners including the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association.
Great American Outdoor Act
A bipartisan bill passed by both House and Senate, the Great American Outdoor Act is the biggest land conservation legislation in a generation, establishing a national park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund that will provide up to $9 billion over the next five years. BoatUS took an active role in working with the Outdoor Recreational Roundtable to pass this landmark legislation.
Fisheries Policy Reform
BoatUS continued to work on recreational fishing policy reform in conjunction with other groups. We testified in favor of legislation in Virginia to change the management of a forage species. This legislation was passed. On the national level, BoatUS engaged in the implementation of the Modern Fish Act, working to ensure the National Marine Fisheries Service meets it obligations required by this legislation.
Boating During COVID
Several states restricted boating activities as part of their COVID response. BoatUS successfully advocated for lifting such restrictions earlier in the process with the National Governors Association and with individual governors. We continue to advocate for keeping access to the water open.
Florida Boating Legislation
The Florida 2020 legislative session saw several bills with potentially negative consequences for boating defeated or modified to be more favorable to boaters. BoatUS defeated restrictions on anchoring in particular areas and helped to modify a punitive marina storm evacuation proposal to more a reasonable policy, although the bill ultimately did not pass. BoatUS continues to advocate for a uniform and consistent statewide anchoring policy.