Guest Column: Discharge inspections could cripple recreational boating

Consider the roughly 13 million recreational boats in the United States and the nearly 4.5 million of these boats on the Great Lakes. Now imagine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulating each and every boat like it is a sewage treatment plant. Imagine boaters filling out complicated permit reports to operate their crafts. That day may be quickly approaching.

Unless the U.S. EPA wins an appeal, our nation’s boaters will need federal permits, not only for large powerboats but also for sailboats and even personal watercraft. This nightmare scenario was triggered by a lawsuit targeting the ballast water from ocean-going cargo ships, which are notorious for releasing invasive species into U.S. waters.

Even though recreational boats were not the target of the environmentalists’ lawsuit, sweeping court orders issued by the U.S. District Court of Northern California encompassed more than just the ballast water from cargo ships. The court’s rulings force U.S. EPA to repeal its discharge permit exemption for all vessels, even recreational boats.

Thankfully, the U.S. EPA is appealing the overly-broad ruling. However, if the U.S. EPA does not prevail on appeal, and the lower court ruling stands, then all recreational boats will be subject to the same federal permit requirements demanded of factories and sewage treatment plants.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation will continue to be an advocate for common-sense regulations that are not overly intrusive to boaters’ privacy. No other organization created for the individual boater is on the front line of this issue.

In the event the U.S. EPA does not prevail on appeal, the Great Lakes Boating Federation will lead the effort on behalf of boaters across the nation to compel Congress to modify the Clean Water Act to empower the U.S. EPA to restore exemptions that existed for recreational boats.

Please join the Great Lakes Boating Federation and support our efforts to be the voice of the owners and users of the 4.5 million boats that make the Great Lakes home. Call (312) 266-8408 or visit the Federation’s Web site at for information about how to join and get involved.

F. Ned Dikmen is chairman of the Great Lakes Boating Federation based in Chicago.

from the June 27-July 4, issue

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