Legislature has chance to get it right
For many years I have offered readers dozens of reasons why our state-run small-boat harbors would be better off if they were operated and maintained within a public/private partnership.
So it's a pleasant surprise this legislative session to see there have been a few bills introduced that may finally create such collaboration.
Still, several boaters have asked me, "If the DLNR no longer runs our marinas, what will happen to its Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation employees?"
I believe the answer exists in the example set by California's Department of Boating and Waterways, which is headed by Hawaii-born Raynor Tsuneyoshi, whom I've quoted in this column in the past.
Rather than actually operating marinas, CDBW employees establish funding through loans for public boating access and facilities, as well as funding boating safety programs.
In fact, the CDBW is currently promoting the creation of a mandatory boating safety education law for Calif. that it hopes will reduce boating injuries and accidents.
Similar to laws in Washington and Oregon, it would require anyone who intends to operate a boat in California to take a required course in boating safety and successfully pass its final exam.
The "boats" referred to in the law are any vessels powered by engines with more than 15 hp and any sailboats more than 30 feet long.
Currently there are several elements of the law that are designed to encourage voluntary participation as well as to promote boating safety.
One element makes it clear there will not be immediate enforcement, but rather the law will be phased in over an eight-year period. Once in place, however, anyone registering a new boat would have 60 days to comply with the law. Another element provides for the availability of a challenge exam for experienced boaters.
There are also elements that will offer boat renters abbreviated safety presentations and exams that would be valid for 30 days. Non-residents would be exempt for up to 60 days if they met their home-states' boating requirements.
Beyond the safety aspects of the proposed law, Tsuneyoshi said, there are Homeland Security considerations that may result in federally mandated tests and registrations.
One of the Coast Guard's biggest "gaps" is its inability to track or account for recreational boats and boaters and it will be taking steps to get a better handle on it in the future, Tsuneyoshi said.
"I'm pushing hard to get our education law passed so we will have a hand in crafting our own law rather than having to follow federal mandates," he noted.
After hearing that, is it so hard to believe that similar projects could be worked on by our own DOBOR personnel? Then the business of running marinas could be left up to the private sector.