Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), member of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, introduced recently the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act. This bipartisan bill addresses several priority areas for the recreational boating and fishing industry and would improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-managed areas, provide new opportunities for public-private investments, and give local districts more flexibility to reinvest their resources.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is one of the largest federal outdoor recreation providers in the nation, managing nearly 257,000 facilities in 43 states.
Under existing law, local USACE managers cannot retain recreation fee revenues collected onsite, an authority afforded to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Parks Service. Army Corps retention fee authorization is critical, as the agency is among the nation’s leading providers of public recreation access, including recreational boating and fishing, across the country.
The Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act would ease funding gaps, allow USACE to expand recreation opportunities, and address the $3 billion recreation maintenance backlog.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a leading provider of public recreation opportunities for recreational boaters and all outdoor enthusiasts, positioning the agency as a key facilitator of significant economic activity in communities across the country. The Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act will allow the Corps to reinvest recreation fees into the operations and maintenance of recreation access points– a huge asset for the agency’s ability to keep high-use infrastructure and facilities in safe and good working condition for millions of Americans,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “We applaud Senators Cramer and Heinrich for their bipartisan leadership in prioritizing safe, accessible public recreation opportunities through introduction of the LAKES Act.”
To correct these issues, the LAKES Act would allow the USACE to:
- Retain 80% of recreation fees collected onsite for O&M at that location.
- Enter into cooperative agreements with local nonprofits.
- Handle partner-collected fees and return them to the partner jointly managing the recreation facility to reinvest onsite.