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2020 Legislative/Regulatory Priorities & Key Issues

Report from Doug Levy, RBAW State Lobbyist

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September 2019 Report from State Lobbyist Doug Levy

We continued to maintain a frenetic pace during September, making progress on several issues that are key to our RBAW legislative, funding, and administrative missions. Here is a report on a number of those, with an advance shout-out and “thanks” to Board Members such as Bob Wise, Steve Finney, Loyd Walker, Wayne Gilham, and Steve Greaves who have given of their time and expertise as summer transitions into fall.

Good News – We Will Be Receiving a Financial Contribution from BoatUS!

As September drew to a close, we received the positive news that BoatUS will be making a $5,000 contribution toward RBAW early in the 2020 calendar year.  As far as I know, it will mark the first time we will have received such financial assistance from our D.C. area colleagues – at least in recent memory.  I had shared with all of you that we had very positive face-to-face and by-conference-call meetings with David Kennedy of BoatUS over the summer.  I believe VP of Government Affairs Steve Finney will play a point role working out with BoatUS exactly how and where the dollars will be allocated.  We see this as a starting point to, hopefully, a much more intensive and collaborative relationship with BoatUS going forward!

Derelict Vessel Removal Program (DVRP)

The folks at Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have settled on a likely 2020 legislative request package that has some good things in it, but all in all is much less ambitious than we had hoped. The DNR package will include:

  • Remove the current $200,000 cap on the Vessel Turn-In Incentive Program (VTIP).  This is a positive step, from our perspective;
  • Change the secondary-liability law on vessel purchases and trade-ins so that any vessel longer than 35 feet (instead of 65 feet) has an insurance-coverage requirement.  I’ve fielded a request to see if DNR might also be willing to change the age of vessel (currently 40 years or older) that is subject to the insurance-coverage requirement;
  • Provide grants for local jurisdiction enforcement of DVRP and abandoning/sinking vessels – DNR will request approximately $150,000 for this;
  • Seek funding to do a pilot study of ways to recycle old vessel parts – DNR will seek $300,000 to $350,000 for this study.

We would have liked to see DNR work with us to have other stakeholders – such as commercial boaters – pay more of their fair share into funding a current program that receives $1.4 million to $1.5 million of its $1.7 million a biennium from the $3 equivalent that recreational boaters pay on vessel registrations.  In any case, discussions with DNR will continue.

Lakebay Marina – RBAW Exploration of Purchasing and Turn-Keying to State Parks

President Wise and I had an excellent Sept. 10 meeting with State Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton/26th Dist.) to discuss the Lakebay Marina and the idea of having the state assist with the acquisition in its 2020 Supplemental Capital Budget. We asked Sen. Randall about making a “Member Request” for up to $1.1 million and she was very receptive to that. She asked us to prepare a background paper on Lakebay (which we’ve done – see attached) and, also, to meet with her House seatmates in the 26th Dist.  VP Finney and I will be meeting with Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-Port Orchard/26th Dist.) on Oct. 1.  If the state can assist with the acquisition of the Lakebay site while we build up our 501(c)(3), that would be extremely helpful.

NOAA-Convened Programmatic Permit Approach – Marina Mitigation Issues

The “progress” on this issue has slowed to a crawl, and both we at RBAW and our colleagues at the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) have some real doubts as to whether much of a result – if any – will come from the programmatic permit process in which we were asked to participate. NOAA has stopped granting individual marina redevelopment and marina enhancement permits, with the idea that the programmatic process would rise to the fore and result in some type of negotiated agreement by February 2020. At this point, however, our first detail-level meeting is not until October and NOAA revealed on a Sept. 24 conference call with RBAW/NMTA that they are not ready to show us the data behind a “mitigation calculator” that they supposedly were developing and fine-tuning. This issue may become one where RBAW and NMTA, perhaps in concert with other stakeholders such as Pacific Northwest Waterway, must contemplate Congressional advocacy or legal options to get anywhere.

Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery – Lawsuit Filed by Conservation Interests

During September, I received pretty helpful verbal assurance on this issue from Todd Hass, who works for the Puget Sound Partnership and has served as chair of the “Vessels Working Group” (VP Finney is a member of same) that reports up to the full SRKW Task Force established by Governor Inslee.  Essentially, Todd indicated the state very likely is sticking with the implementation what was enacted in 2SSB 5577 (Vessel Bill) during the 2019 Session.  We headed off more draconian changes and fees, with the final 5577 including a 300-yard distance bubble (400 yards behind) and a 7-knot go-slow zone within one-half nautical mile when whales are present.  Canada has adopted measures that in some respects go further, and conservation groups have filed suit in U.S. District Court to force more environmental regulations to protect SRKWs.  This is an issue on which we will need to remain vigilant.

Emerging Issue – PSCAA Proposing Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

I shared in my last report that the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA), relying on legal authority it believes it has through the federal Clean Air Act, is proposing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that could be imposed on vehicles throughout the 4-county Central Puget Sound. In addition to vehicles, it also appears to apply to both commercial vessels and non-ocean-going vessels.  It could translate to increased fuel costs of as much as 15 cents per gallon. PSCAA released its report in mid-September that attempts to rationalize the LCFS standard and its application to vehicles and vessels. NMTA is leading efforts to oppose this and is in touch with BoatUS and others to assist.

National Electric Codes – 2020 National Standard and State L&I to Follow Suit – Woo!

The current trend line on the NEC codes is another piece of very good news for RBAW and for recreational boating in general.  The 2020 NEC standard has been published with a threshold of 100mA for feeders and 30mA for pedestals within marinas and boatyards.  This is the very standard we and NMTA worked so hard to attain a couple of years ago – and State L&I expects to utilize this new 2020 standard going forward.  I’ve attached a letter of appreciation signed and sent by NMTA and RBAW to State L&I – and want to thank Board Member Loyd Walker for being the first one to clue us in to this newly published standard.

Boating Safety – Lawmakers May Want to push a Bill in 2020 – We Recommend Caution

Spurred by a series of 2019 fatalities involving paddleboarders, state lawmakers such as Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline/32nd Dist.) are asking to re-examine the boating safety and boater education card laws first enacted back in 2004-05.  We at RBAW and our colleagues at Washington State Parks have urged that it will be important to proceed with caution and determine whether we really need a change in state law or whether other best practices, education, and awareness might be a better path forward.  Rep. Ryu is going to be pulling together stakeholders in October to discuss all this further.

Effort to Secure $50,000 to Update the state’s Outdoor Recreation Economic Impacts Study

I noted this effort in last month’s report, and wanted to update you all on the fact that the Big Tent Outdoor Recreation Coalition, joined by more than a dozen other organizations, have urged the Governor to allocate 2020 Supplemental Operating Budget funds to update a January 2015 study of the Outdoor Recreation Economy.  RBAW was one of the organizations that signed on. 

Cold Water Safety

We’ve received the following information from the State Parks Boating Program regarding cold water safety. Most waterways are lethally cold and they want folks to be aware and prepared before heading out boating or paddling!

News coverage:


Read the full report give by our VP of Government Affairs and our Lobbyist.

RBAW and the Watercraft Excise Tax

The State of Washington has unfairly saddled recreational boaters with an excise tax that is not collected in a similar manner from any other “users group.” Annual vessel registration fees include a tax equal to ½ of 1% of the market value of any recreational boat. These taxes are simply absorbed into the general fund of Washington State, and are in no way earmarked for improvements to boating infrastructure.

Other owners of recreational conveyances are not asked to pay a tax based on market value. For example, private aircraft pay a very small flat fee based entirely upon the type of aircraft. Excise taxes for aircraft are generally under $200 per year, and any private helicopter (regardless of value) pays a flat $90 renewal charge. A private helicopter worth $3-million pays a $90 excise tax, while the owner of a $3-million yacht would pay $15,000 annually.

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Recreational Boating Association of Washington
P.O. Box 17063
Seattle, WA 98127

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