Great Lakes Boating Federation hails the grants recently awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program. This is a small step in the right direction, but there is a lot to be done.
More than $12.5 million has been granted to 11 states for 14 boating infrastructure projects. An additional $3 million will be released at a later date to 40 states willing to match smaller, non-competitive grants.
Not only is it about time the region receives funding to improve the boating infrastructure, but it makes sense since funding for the BIG program comes from boaters themselves, who support it through excise taxes on certain equipment and boating fuels.
The grants prove the government believes in the benefits of boating, but more needs to be done. There are harbors to be dredged and a new study needs to be completed to show the real strength of boating.
Recreational boating suffers from many years of neglect. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) refuses to dredge recreational harbors while endlessly dredging commercial harbors, despite the fact that recreational boaters generate four times as much regional economic impact.
Consider the USACE spent approximately $34.5 million last year to dredge harbors in the Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit districts combined. Commercial shipping is drying out but the dredging continues, while recreational boat harbors suffer. One report suggests that Great Lakes recreational harbors could be dredged for a mere $5 million per year. Let’s do the math: $34.5 million to produce $4 billion in commercial economic impact, or $5 million to produce $16 billion in recreational impact. The numbers speak for themselves.
Because boating is one of our country’s favorite pastimes, the Great Lakes Boating Federation believes the government should also reconsider their dredging policies. Recreational boating has been making millions of people happier, improving local economies and creating stronger families for decades while the USACE has been spending its time and money on big business. It is time to change.
Recreational boating needs a study to provide accurate numbers on today’s economic impact. It seems little to ask Congress to spend $0.5 million to $1 million to conduct a proper study of the recreational boating economic impact on the Great Lakes. The recently released study was supported by data more than five years old (some of which was changed between drafts) and used only one-tenth of the funding it was allocated. It is likely the findings will prove recreational boaters have an even larger impact than we believe today.
It’s time; we deserve our day in the sun.