Boaters need to act on this Act
There are some dark clouds on the horizon for recreational boaters, and I'm not talking about hurricanes. A 2006 U.S. District Court ruling regarding invasive species pollution will soon result in boat owners in the U.S. being required to pay for special permits.
To comply with that ruling, the Environmental Protection Administration created a new discharge permitting program that is intended to prevent the spread of invasive species from ocean-going commercial vessels' ballast water.
As you may know, tankers and cruise and cargo ships can pump thousands of gallons of seawater into onboard ballast tanks to compensate for any lack of weight in their normal cargo for stability. But when they take on this ballast in, let's say, Hong Kong, and then discharge it in Honolulu Harbor, they also transfer non-indigenous sea life with the water.
Curtailing this practice is a good thing, of course. However, the EPA's new program fails to draw a distinction between local boats and transoceanic ships, so even our smallest sailboats and outboards will need permits for discharging engine cooling water, grey water, bilge water, and even the rain and wash-down water that runs off the decks.
Thankfully, according to BoatU.S. -- the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters -- there are a couple of bills now before Congress titled the "Clean Boating Act of 2008" that will create the needed distinction.
These bills would retain a 35-year-old exemption under the Clean Water Act of 1972 for "normal operational" discharges from recreational boats. And rest assured, the acts will not weaken any existing environmental laws that restrict boaters from dumping oil, fuel, trash, plastics or sewage overboard.
BoatU.S. reports the Senate version, S. 2766, moved out of its Environment and Public Works Committee on May 21 after an identical House version, H.R. 5949, moved out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on May 15. Both bills are now headed for full Senate and House votes, respectively, in the next few weeks.
"We have jumped over two huge hurdles in both the Senate and House Committees," said BoatU.S. Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. "However, with only nine weeks left in the Congressional session before September, we are facing a tight timeline."
"Everyone who enjoys boating needs to ask their legislators for their support when it comes to a floor vote. We need constituents to speak up now -- even if they have done so in the past year," she added.
And, BoatU.S. notes, legislators should be reminded the Clean Boating Act of 2008 would also reduce the bureaucracy currently being created to administer and implement the permit program for the nation's more than 15 million recreational vessels.
Hawaii's boaters can voice their support for the passage of these bills by contacting Rep. Neil Abercrombie at email@example.com and Rep. Mazie Hirono at her Web site at hirono.house.gov.
Sen. Daniel Inouye can be contacted at his Web site at inouye.senate.gov and, similarly, Sen. Daniel Akaka may be contacted at his Web site at akaka.senate.gov.