The arrival of a pandemic and the accompanying boat boom created a mixed situation in the legislation for 2020 and 2021. While states are still grappling with old standbys such as AIS and wake surfing, the need for more security and infrastructure has grown triggered by more boaters The waters are issues that have been raised and carried into the new year.
According to David Dickerson, director of state government at the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the pandemic meant federal and state lawmakers have not been as active this year as they have been in previous years, which has resulted in fewer new regulations being put in place and laws have been passed that affect the business of boating. There were just more pressing issues.
That didn’t mean state and national trade associations went on vacation in the spring and summer. It meant that walking through the halls of government buildings to discuss the nuances of outstanding bills was replaced by phone calls.
“The members were easier to reach by phone than usual. They realized that good laws require the interaction of the people who make them work. They need us as much as we need them, ”said Dickerson. He said that in some ways the NMMA legislative team’s ability to build relationships with lawmakers was enhanced by not having to commute to Washington DC and show up at lawmakers’ doors at scheduled times.
The work of those who will monitor and respond to government actions affecting the marine industry in 2020 has continued, with a focus on existing legislative and regulatory constants rather than new issues.
30 to 30
Dickerson reports that the international 30 to 30 movement, which will protect 30% of land and water by 2030, is high on the list of legislative responsibilities at the national level. The movement prevails worldwide with a large amount of funding. The Swiss philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss has pledged a billion dollars over a period of 10 years in order to achieve the 30% target.
At the US level, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) passed a Senate resolution in October 2019, in which the government should set the 30-by-30 target by making science the basis for conservation decisions and carbon and greenhouse gases in the US – American countries and oceans are bound. and addressing issues of environmental justice. Federal action on this has stalled a bit over the past year, but California embraced the state-level initiative and tried last year to introduce laws to protect 30% of its own land and waters.
Dickerson said it wasn’t surprising to step up California as the state is often at the forefront of environmental movements, and although 30 by 30 were supported, California’s proposal fell behind. “The legislation was loosely written and imprecise. It did not define protection. Our concern (NMMA) was that the protection could be viewed as strictly no-go areas, essentially cutting off fishing and boating, ”said Dickerson. He went on to say that recreational fishing is a non-consuming activity that can fit into a conservation mandate without having to ban it entirely.
NMMA worked with its partners in California to get the state back to the drawing board and come up with a 30 by 30 plan that better defines the actions needed. Dickerson is confident that this issue will re-emerge in California and be high on the Biden administration’s federal agenda. “We want to make sure California is doing everything right. We’ve made a lot of noise out there about how the legislation has been drafted and we hope that this will find a response as other states try to put together similar 30×30 plans, ”he said.
The call to ban or restrict wake surfing is not new, but as more boats are sold and more people go to the water for pandemic refuge, the problem has become a little more critical. “We have been aggressively lobbying in five states and hear about a different area of concern every day,” said Dickerson.
Concern is often raised by homeowners whose properties are adjacent to a preferred wake surfing body of water. The topics are safety on the water, coastal erosion and perceived impairment of the water environment.
Homeowners are calling for limits on how close boats are to the coast and better training for those who surf or ride the boats. NMMA supports both solutions, although 200 feet from the shore is usually sufficient when opponents ask for much further distances in some cases. The association bases its case for distance from shore on wave analysis of the distance required in a location for the waves to disperse.
NMMA has partnered closely with the Water Sports Industry Association to jointly fund and develop programs that increase awareness of politeness on the water, the proper handling of boats, and the containment of the spread of AIS. Dickerson believes that law is not the answer to addressing this problem when there is no other reason than few on the water to enforce law. He compares the problem of wake surfing to the early uprising against jet skis. The approach for jet skis has been to introduce mandatory life jacket clothing, classes and training for rental. He sees similar successful results from this type of contact to awaken surfers.
The wake surf challenge isn’t all homeowner disputes. More wake boats on the water mean an increased chance of spreading AIS. Again, widespread efforts to educate boat owners about proper prevention are vital, as is the resources needed to develop and run such programs.
According to Dickerson, there is a major problem with funding in states with transboundary waters. He cites Tennessee and Kentucky, where one state is infected with Asian carp and one is not yet. One state is actively working to stop the spread, the other not. There is also the problem of convincing lawmakers in states where recreation is more focused on hunting in the mountains than fishing in lakes to spend the money on fighting AIS. Part of the advocacy this year will be to educate state lawmakers about the impact AIS can have on its waters and economy.
Another effect of the boating boom is that more boats increase the likelihood of accidents. Nationally, boat sales are up 9%. In Florida alone, they are up 19%. The surge in new boaters combined with existing boaters who spend more time on the water has significantly increased the number of deaths on the water over the past year, essentially undoing a 10 year downturn. The NMMA works with states that do not have compulsory boater training to undertake it and encourages the entire industry to advocate education.
With a decrease in security, there is also a decrease in appropriate access. More boats mean fewer slips in the marinas and longer lines at the boat ramps. While seasoned boaters understand the need to be patient and wait for your turn at the ramp, newcomers may not be as forgiving. “We want to do everything we can to ensure that new boaters continue to be enthusiastic. Long lines on the water could hurt that, ”said Dickerson. He went on to say that the industry deserves more investment in infrastructure and that we need to ensure that funds from the newly passed Nature Act are used for the upkeep and maintenance of parks but are geared towards boat infrastructure.
The change in who will be staying in the White House and West Wing is not expected to bring any major changes to the industry over the next year. No one is seeking a renewal of the luxury tax that tore the carpet off the shipping industry in 1991, or sweeping changes to the Clean Water Act or the Protection of the Oceans that could result in a number of regulations. Instead, states remain where changes are taking place, which means it might be a good time to renew that trade association membership.