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The national boating lobby is decrying a state bill filed last month to hike vessel registration fees for money that would support shallow-draft inlet dredging.
The proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) would raise the three-year registration cost on a 20-foot boat, for example, by 275 percent, notes the Boat Owners Association of the United States, or BoatUS, which advocates for more than half a million members.
As filed, the bill seeks to fill a “Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging Fund,” which would only be used to cover the state’s share of costs in such projects. The state allocations would require dollar-for-dollar matching funds from a non-state source, such as a county or town government. (Port City Daily story about the bill’s filing)
It follows knowledge that the federal government isn’t in the shallow-draft inlet dredging business like it once was, meaning the state and local-level governments are having to step up. Brown noted the inlets are like highways and recreational grounds that can have tremendous value to neighboring economies.
Official information and updates on the proposal, Senate Bill 58, are viewable here.
BoatUs calls the proposal unfair.
In a release issued Tuesday afternoon, the group said it is “dedicated to preserving access to waterways but S.B. 58 places an unfair financial burden on recreational boaters while ignoring the responsibility of commercial fishing boats and for-hire charter fishing and head boats.”
The group added that boaters who primarily use the state’s non-coastal waters, like lakes and streams, would be paying more to support the maintenance of areas they may never use.
As filed, the bill replaces the current fees of $15 for a one-year registration and $40 for a three-year registration with a schedule of fees based on the length of the vessel.
The draft schedule for a one-year registration ranges from $15 for a vessel less than 14 feet to $150 for a vessel longer than 40 feet.
For a three-year card, the costs would range $45 for a less-than-14-foot boat and $450 for a boat longer than 40 feet.
The legislation would order the state to transfer, on a quarterly basis, at least half of each one- or three-year registration fee to the special dredging fund.
Brown told Port City Daily in November 2012, when the bill was being imagined, that a new revenue source is important for inlet dredging projects and that millions of dollars are needed per year to adequately address the predicament of less federal support.
The bill, which also carries Sen. Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) as a sponsor, is currently in the Senate Finance Committee, which is co-chaired by Brunswick County’s Sen. Bill Rabon (R). A populous committee, Brown and Sanderson are also members.
North Carolina ranked 10th nationally for number of boat registrations in 2011, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-7), who announced Wednesday morning he will co-chair the Congressional Boating Caucus in the 113th Congress. His announcement also said retail sales of new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories in the state that year exceeded $400 million. Overall, the industry here contributed to 13,180 jobs.