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Boaters asked to become activists

AUG. 10 — The recreational boating organization BoatU.S. is urging all boaters to join the political fight over discharge.

The organization backs the passage in the U.S. Congress of HR 2550, “The Recreational Boating Act of 2007,” proposed corrective legislation that would exempt recreational boaters from federal regulation intended to control the discharge of ballast water from ocean-going commercial ships.

“As it stands now, a permit will be required for ‘normal operational discharges’ on every recreational boat — even your dinghy — in every state where you boat,” says BoatU.S. vice president of government affairs Margaret Podlich in a press release.

A September 2006 decision by the U.S. District Court for Northern California is threatening a 34-year-old exemption for pleasure boaters that would lump regulation of normal deck run off, bilge water, engine cooling water and grey water with ballast tank discharge from cargo ships, according to BoatU.S.

The original lawsuit was brought against the federal Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to control the spread of invasive species contained in commercial ships’ ballast water tanks. Ballast water is a primary pathway for non-native species, such as the zebra mussel, to invade U.S. waters.

The deadline for the permit implementation stands at Sept. 30, 2008. BoatU.S. is urging all boaters to contact their legislators to co-sponsor HR 2550.

“It’s important to know that HR 2550 does not weaken any existing environmental regulations for recreational boaters,” adds Podlich. “The main sources of potential pollution from boats — oil, fuel, sewage and trash — are already regulated and will remain so.”