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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am Ted Woolley, Boating Law Administrator for the State of Utah, and I serve as President of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is a professional association consisting of state officials having responsibility for administering and/or enforcing state boating laws.
Our Association is recognized for it's stewardship of “Recreational Boating Safety”. We have, over the years, worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, the States, and others to insure that the intent of Congress to promote uniformity, reciprocity, and comity among the various States was given high priority. Testimonial of this is the many resolutions, model acts etc. that has been generated by our Association and adopted by the majority of the States and Territories. In doing this we bring to the table at various meetings, highly qualified personnel in the field of boating law enforcement, education, boating safety, and on the water, search and rescue.
Our membership takes pride in their accomplishments and the many words of praise we have received from the Commandant, U. S. Coast Guard and the Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board over the years.
Our reward is saving a life and what a wonderful reward that is!
My testimony today will focus on the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (Wallop-Breaux) and more specific, the reauthorization appropriation of the Boating Safety Account of this fund.
The Boating Safety Account of the trust fund is derived solely from the tax boaters pay
their motorboat fuel. This user fee, paid by the boaters, is returned to the States to help defray their cost for services provided to the recreational
boater. We think this is indeed in keeping with the user fee concept, “user paysuser benefits”, thus not costing the general tax payer one cent and does not add one penny to the national debt.
The Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund has resulted in the States assuming a major share of the boating safety and law enforcement responsibilities. This move makes sense because the responsibility for boating safety is and should continue to be a joint federal/state responsibility. The financial base provided by WallopBreaux funding allows the states to concentrate on establishing an administrative infrastructure, purchase equipment and promote the education and enforcement techniques to stimulate increased boating safety awareness. This federal/state partnership has resulted in fewer boating fatalities even though the number of boaters enjoying our nation's waterways continues to increase.
Funds are made available from the Boating Safety Trust Funds to the States on a dollar to dollar match and have made a major contribution to boating safety. By obtaining these trust funds, the States have been able to relieve the Coast Guard boating safety teams on many of the nation's waterways (thus allowing the Coast Guard to pursue higher priority programs), provide a higher quality of boating safety education, produce a system of investigating and reporting boat accidents and provide a more rapid response to boaters in distress. It is the desire of the States to continue to strengthen our boating safety program and partnership to the benefit of the nation's boaters.
The Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (Wallop-Breaux) was due to be reauthorized along with the Highway Trust Fund in 1997. However, this did not happen and a compromise bill extended the Wallop Breaux Trust Fund until Congress comes up with a long term bill (six years) in the spring of 1998.
There is consideration, as you are aware, through authorization bills in both the House and the Senate to reauthorize these trust funds. While the total amount of the funds remain basically the same, the bills provide for a more equitable division of these trust funds between the boating safety and sport fisheries programs. These measures provide for $70 million or one half of the total funds attributable to federal motorboat gasoline tax for State boating safety programs all of which is paid by boaters..
Specifically, we are asking this Subcommittee for reauthorization of the State Boating Safety Program. The Administration again this year has recommended $55 million as mandatory appropriation to the State Boating Safety Program from the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (Wallop-Breaux).
Just as our Association is recognized for its stewardship over “recreational boating safety”, this Subcommittee over the years, is recognized for their untiring efforts in providing authorization of Boating Safety Trust Funds to help defray the cost of services provided by the States to the recreational boating public. Be assured the efforts of this Subcommittee is well recognized and appreciated throughout the boating community.
Major topics which our Association will focus on through long range plans into the 21st. Century are;
1) Identify and evaluate future impacts on boating safety. Apprise our Association of the status of any legislation, policies or procedures relevant to the issue at hand.
2) Surface Use Conflicts. Study what is being done and what can be done to help alleviate these problems.
3) Personal Watercraft. Examine what is working through education, enforcement and regulations and what is the long range outlook for their sales and
4) Education Options. Research what has happened in the states that have adopted “mandatory education” for adults, phase in versus more immediate methods, what is the cost effectiveness of these programs and are they making a difference in the target audience. What about other educational initiatives, dealer based education or education using computers or the Internet?
5) Drinking and Boating. Examine what additional things can be done as far as education, enforcement, and legislation.
6) Personal Flotation Devices. If wearing a PFD will save 80% of the boating accident victims, what would we need to do to encourage wearing it or should PFD's be required to be worn through state legislation?
7) Funding issues. Examine the outlook and future for state/federal funding
8) The role of the U.S. Coast Guard and the States. Where should we be in the next ten (10) years in boating safety?
The national trend shows a continuing growth in boating and we expect this growth to continue in the coming years. This is understandable when you consider that as available land to recreate on becomes scarce and with 70% of the earth's surface covered by water, our waterways are a natural place to seek relief from the pressures of a growing population. The beautiful waters that abound our states satisfy the insatiable appetite of sport fishing, the recreational boating enthusiast and those who desire to leave pressures behind to relax and absorb the tranquility of our waters and beaches.
With commercial traffic (passenger and cargo ships, oil tankers, off shore drilling, fishing fleets etc.) add new responsibilities to the states in managing this priceless natural resource, “our waterways”, to further the States needs, the Coast Guard is downsizing and passing many of their responsibilities to the States. Boating safety is and will continue to be a high priority for the States and the Coast Guard.
We take pride in the fact that we make good use of these trust funds and that the end product is a major contribution by the states to the overall reduction in the boating fatality rate.
One factor the states would like to change is, recreational boating is still on the National Transportation Safety Board's “most wanted” list. We must continue to focus our attention and coordinated efforts to remove recreational boating from this list.