The Policy Positions listed were approved by the RBAW Board on February 2, 2017.
Please note that the Board may update this information frequently.
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August 2019 Report from State Lobbyist Doug Levy
We have had a pretty busy summer on the legislative front, folks. Here is a report on some of
the key issues I have worked on for RBAW – in concert with Board Members – during June-July-
August. Before I sail into this, I want to give a shout-out to our Executive Board officers and
particularly to President Bob Wise and Vice-President for Government Affairs Steve Finney, who
have put extensive time and energy into many if not most of these issues!
Ensuring more sustainable funding for the Derelict Vessel Removal Program (DVRP)
We have now had nearly a half-dozen meetings and phone calls with Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) stuff on a potential legislative request package the Agency would seek to take into
the 2020 Session. The package would focus on a way for DNR to more adequately fund a DVRP that
costs about $5 million a biennium to operate on a sustainable basis but is only receiving $1.7
million a biennium. Most of that $1.7 million – between $1.4 and $1.5 million – comes from the $3
equivalent that recreational boaters pay in vessel registration fees. We have suggested that
increasing the per-foot fee on commercial vessels, dedicating a chunk of the Watercraft Excise Tax
that boaters already pay into the State General Fund, and keeping vessel fees based on how the
vessel was built in the first place, should be the top priorities for getting to $5 million a biennium.
Candidly, we have had some back-and-forth with DNR staff who have suggested things like
increasing the vessel registration fee to $4 and imposing new marina-slip fees. Our answer has
been: “No.” On your behalf we are taking a strong stand that others should be paying more
equitably into this program. I should note that we also have areas of agreement with DNR, such as
on the idea of expanding the use of the Vessel Turn-In Incentive Program. We are likely to know in
the next 1-2 weeks how DNR proposes to proceed on this issue.
Lakebay Marina – RBAW Exploration of Purchasing and Turn-Keying to State Parks
We have stepped up our exploration of this potential purchase and our work with State Agencies
while preparing to do our first major legislative outreach. President Wise and VP Steve Finney
provided a tour of the marina earlier this month for State Parks officials, and Steve Finney and I also
talked some with State Parks Director Don Hoch at a maritime heritage event on Aug. 29. On the
legislative front, Bob Wise and I will be meeting on Sept. 12 with Sen. Emily Randall (DBremerton/
26th Dist.). We think it may be possible for Sen. Randall to work with us on a
supplemental capital budget request for Lakebay, which is in her 26th LD. Additionally, VP Steve
Finney and I each attended an Aug. 29 celebration event for the designation of the Washington
Coast and Puget Sound as a “Maritime Heritage Area” within a larger public lands act enacted by
Congress. This could be helpful on the Lakebay Marina front because when a Maritime Heritage
Area Management Plan is done by the state, operating grants will be available for projects within
the Heritage Area. It’s in our interest to support a state funding request for the management plan.
Looking for a ramped-up relationship with BoatUS
Earlier this month, we met with the Government Affairs Director of BoatUS, and we are optimistic
that our sit-down will lead to a better relationship and cross-promotional work with our federal
partners. Kudos to David Kennedy of BoatUS, who contacted me in July to set a meeting with RBAW
Officers that occurred on Aug. 8 in Bremerton. Thanks to Bob Wise, Steve Finney, Wayne Gilham,
Loyd Walker, Linda Newland, David Kutz and Paul Thorpe for taking the time to come to our
meeting – as did Peter Schrappen of NMTA. Our meeting was followed by a Town Hall discussion
between recreational boating stakeholders and Cong. Kilmer in Bremerton – along with a smaller
group meeting Cong. Kilmer convened with marine business leaders.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, we exchanged ideas with David on how BoatUS and RBAW could better help
each other recruit new members and reach more recreational boaters. We have high hopes that
BoatUS might be able to help RBAW with some seed funding. We laid out several ideas in a letter
from President Wise and VP Finney to David Kennedy just a few days ago. Fingers crossed!
NOAA-Convened Programmatic Permit Approach – Marina Mitigation Issues
I shared previously that the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and
particularly the Central/South Puget Sound branch of NOAA Fisheries have asked the NW Marine
Trade Association, our organization, Ports and others to work with them on a Technical Working
Group that would develop a consensus-based programmatic permit for marina projects and the
mitigation requirements for those projects. This effort is off to a slow start. We had one meeting
earlier this summer, but we are now waiting for NOAA Fisheries to finalize development of a
“mitigation calculator” they have to inform this whole programmatic effort. Our next meeting on
this is Sept. 24. As I’ve noted, we are between a rock and a hard place on this one, skeptical over
whether this will work, but knowing that there aren’t many viable options since NOAA Fisheries has
stopped granting individual permits. Members of Congress, particularly U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (DGig
Harbor/6th Congressional Dist.) have pushed NOAA to get this done and to look for a February
2020 date by which to conclude the programmatic permit work.
Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery – Lawsuit Filed by Conservation Interests
In the report I did last May, I shared details of new actions and guidelines put forth in Canada to
enhance SRKW recovery efforts. The Canada guidelines are stiffer in some respects than 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. We had a very
positive July 29 meeting with the Governor’s natural resources policy adviser JT Austin, where both
RBAW and NMTA emphasized the Governor’s Office should let 5577 have time to work and not
cave in to some environmental voices who quickly demanded Washington go just as far as Canada
did. The meeting with JT Austin went very well, but just a couple weeks later, conservation groups
filed suit in U.S. District Court to force more environmental regulations to protect SRKWs. Here’s
Seattle Times’ Aug. 19 coverage of the lawsuit that was filed:
Emerging Issue – PSCAA Proposing Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)
In the last couple of weeks, a new regulatory issue has emerged that needs attention from NMTA as
well as RBAW. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, 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. We just learned that 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. Peter Schrappen of NMTA
is to be applauded for flagging this issue and reaching out to RBAW. Peter and I had an Aug. 30
conference call with an organizer of a coalition that is opposing the proposed PSCAA Low-Carbon
Fuel Standard. We anticipate seeing a draft rule on this in October.
Current Study on “Regional Assets of Statewide Significance” (RASS) – and possible update pf
the state’s Outdoor Recreation Economic Impacts Study
Just a quick note on these two studies – one concluding and one which may get started up. The
“RASS” study will be completed in October and will identify both ‘foundational’ activities
throughout the state that enable people to access outdoor recreation, as well as more iconic or
“exceptional” assets for boating, hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, and more. The state’s
Recreation Conservation Office (RCO) has reached out to us as part of the study, and I’ve been on an
Advisory Group working with the RCO and its consultant team. The study should be a positive in a)
showing where in the state there may be service gaps for recreational activities such as boating; b)
making recommendations to increase things like moorage capacity and pump-outs while piloting
new ideas such as stern ties; and c) identifying a few of the truly special boating locations in our
great state. As for the study that may get kick-started, we’ve talked to the Governor’s outdoor
recreation policy adviser (Jon Snyder) about his idea to secure some funding (about $50,000) to
update the state’s 2015-16 study of the Outdoor Recreation Economy. We’re very supportive of
this effort to update a study that helped put ‘outdoor rec’ more on the state’s economic map.
Pursuit of Potential Mandatory Insurance Requirement in State Statute – A Step Back
Lastly, I wanted to let folks know that we’ve stepped back from this one and have instead veered
toward ensuring that those who are selling and buying large vessels show proof of insurance. We
learned that current statute has a proof-of-insurance requirement for buyers of vessels that are
over 65 feet long and 40 years old. We’re discussing revisions to those thresholds as part of the
over-arching discussions with DNR about the DVRP (see above).
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.