Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Congress Advances Boating Bills

The spending bills include funding for industry priorities by the Department of Commerce, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bills also support important programs that benefit Great Lakes and outdoor recreation.

With federal government funding running through Sept. 30, the outlook for the spending bills remains uncertain as Congress will need to pass the spending measures or a continuing resolution, which would maintain current spending levels, before the funding deadline. Below is a summary highlighting some of the key provisions:

Vessel Speed Restrictions

The House bill includes funding for the North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) real-time monitoring program and would prevent the administration’s proposal to change the NARW vessel speed rules.
The Senate bill includes a provision funding the NARW real-time monitoring program and ordering NOAA to work with affected stakeholders, including the recreational boating industry, and incorporate relevant feedback before issuing a final rule.

Department of Commerce

The Senate bill would provide $1.5 million for the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, which would continue the Department’s analysis highlighting the impact that outdoor recreation has on the U.S. economy.

Department of Interior

Both the House and Senate bills provide $368 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—which is a critical program that works to protect and restore the Great Lakes through habitat restoration and the prevention of aquatic invasive species (AIS) and HABs.
The Senate bill also provides the Department $50 million for efforts to help prevent the spread of AIS and another $31.5 million to prevent the spread of invasive carp.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

The Senate bill provides robust funding for many of the U.S. Army Corps’ projects that are critically important to recreational boaters, which is likely be around $260 million.
The House bill also recognizes the growth of the outdoor recreation industry, providing $1.5 million to implement the MAPLand Act, and encourages USACE to recognize the importance of concessionaires at recreation facilities.

Given the legislative gridlock that often grips both chambers of Congress, the annual appropriations process consistently remains one of the few legislative vehicles that eventually crosses the finish line. NMMA said it will closely monitor the appropriations process as it unfolds on Capitol Hill and will continue to advocate for the industry’s priorities with lawmakers and key staff.