List of senators serving on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
By now, I hope, every BASS member should be aware that the EPA is moving forward with a regulation that would require the owner of every recreational boat that discharges water to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in order to use his boat. If, like me, you have an outboard that uses water to cool the engine (who doesn't?), or your boat has a bilge pump and/or livewell, you will be required to obtain an NPDES permit. At this stage, it is not clear how much a permit would cost. But based on current pricing, the permit could cost boaters hundreds of dollars.
It's ridiculous, I know, but that's our government bureaucracy at work. There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that some members of Congress are willing to help. The bad news is that the issue is confusing, and some anglers have unwittingly been advocating the requirement.
Currently, there are two efforts under way to remedy the problem. One is a simple legislative fix called the Recreational Boating Act of 2007, which has been introduced in both the House (HR 2550) and Senate (S. 2067). This is a very simple, two-page piece of legislation that would solve our problems. However, there has been substantial opposition because of the misunderstanding that this legislation would somehow weaken the Clean Water Act and negate important laws governing aquatic nuisance species. IT DOES NOT. All it does is maintain the status quo and codify a common sense exemption that the EPA has granted to recreational boaters for three decades. Neither bill has moved out of committee, even though the House version has a considerable number of co-sponsors. The Senate bill still needs a lot of help from the Democratic side of the aisle. We'll let you know when either of these bills starts to move.
The second opportunity to fix this situation has just presented itself. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) plans to introduce an amendment to S. 1578, the Ballast Water Amendment, that will add a provision to allow the U.S. Coast Guard to review vessel classes and determine if their water discharges should be held to the ballast water permitting requirements of larger commercial vessels. However, it specifically does not exempt recreational vessels from laws and regulations pertaining to aquatic nuisance species. S. 1578 is currently in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, with mark-up scheduled for tomorrow. This would be a great bill to support, provided Senator Nelson's amendment is added.
If you agree that we need to fix this problem and your Senator sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (view list of senators), let them know tonight or early tomorrow that you support S. 1578, provided Senator Nelson's Committee Amendment regarding recreational vessels is added.