SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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REAUTHORIZATION OF THE STATE BOATING SAFETY GRANT PROGRAM
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION
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TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 26, 1997
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
SUSAN MOLINARI, New York
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
ROBERT E. (BUD) CRAMER, Jr., Alabama
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland, Chairman
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey, Vice Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
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BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Carter, Ed, President, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and Chief, Boating Division, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Floyd, Veronica McCann, Co-Chair, American League of Anglers and Boaters, and Washington Representative, Brunswick Corp
Hull, Rear Admiral James D., Director, Operations Policy, U.S. Coast Guard
Rhoads, Colonel John W., Superintendent, Natural Resources Police Force, State of Maryland
Sciulla, Michael G., Vice President, Boat Owners Association of the United States
PREPARED STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY A MEMBER OF CONGRESS
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Shuster, Hon. Bud, of Pennsylvania
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Floyd, Veronica McCann
Hull, Rear Admiral James D
Rhoads, Colonel John W
Sciulla, Michael G
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Carter, Ed, President, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and Chief, Boating Division, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency:
States Use of the Federal Boat Safety Funds Aquatic Resources Trust Fund ''Wallop-Breaux''
Remarks of Jim Hall, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB's Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMessage from Admiral R.E. Kramek, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (Wallop/Breaux) Flow Chart
Letter to Rep. Gilchrest, February 25, 1997
Responses to questions
Floyd, Veronica McCann, Co-Chair, American League of Anglers and Boaters, and Washington Representative, Brunswick Corp., responses to questions
Hull, Rear Admiral James D., Director, Operations Policy, U.S. Coast Guard, responses to questions
Rhoads, Colonel John W., Superintendent, Maryland Natural Resources Police, responses to questions
ADDITION TO THE RECORD
Freas, Samuel James, Ed. D., President/CEO, International Swimming Hall of Fame, letter, March 24, 1997
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE STATE BOATING SAFETY GRANT PROGRAM
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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1997
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:10 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Wayne Gilchrest (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GILCHREST. The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will come to order.
Good morning, everybody. I hope you're enjoying this beautiful, crisp February morning in the Nation's capital, even though it's supposed to get warmer this afternoon and up to about 70 tomorrow--and tomorrow we'll talk about global warming.
But this morning I would like to welcome everyone to the first meeting of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the 105th Congress. I'm pleased and honored to be the new chairman, and look forward to 2 years with Mr. Clement and other members of the subcommittee and our relationship with the maritime industry and the Coast Guard.
Before we begin today, I would like to express my condolences to the members of the Coast Guard and especially to the families of the crew of Coast Guard Motor Life Boat 44353. Motor Life Boat 44363 was tragically lost off the coast of Washington State two weeks ago during a heroic search and rescue case.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Coast Guardsmen who perished in the line of duty--Petty Officer David Bosley, Petty Officer Mathay Shilmey, and Seaman Clinton Minkin--will long be emembered by the maritime community as guardians of the sea in the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them, other members of the Coast Guard throughout this great country, and to their families.
The subcommittee is meeting today to hear the testimony on the reauthorization of the Coast Guard State boating safety grant program. We will limit opening statements--actually, if anybody has an opening statement--myself, Mr. Clement, any other members of the subcommittee, if you feel the need to give a brief opening statement you may do so. If you don't, your statements will be included in the hearing record.
Safety is a primary concern of over 20 million recreational boat owners in this country. The Coast Guard estimates that more than 800 people died in recreational boating accidents in 1995, up from an all-time low of 784 boating fatalities in 1994.
Sadly, recreational boating accidents result in the greatest number of transportation fatalities annually after highway accidents.
Clearly, there is a need for us to reauthorize the recreational boating safety grant program. This program is funded completely by recreational boaters through the fuel taxes they pay and, with minimal oversight from the Coast Guard, provides the State with the funds they need to provide quality boating safety programs for the boating public.
With this funding, the State provides boating safety education, enforcement of State boating safety requirements, public access to waterways, aids to navigation, emergency search and rescue assistance, and vessel numbering and titling programs.
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This program also provides support to the Coast Guard auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, the U.S. Sailing Association, and the American Canoe Association, whose members offer substantial boating safety assistance to recreational boaters.
I strongly support this program and will be considering whether additional resources are needed to adequately address the safety needs of the boating public.
I want to point out to the Members that the expenditures for the recreational boat safety grant program are covered by H.R. 4, the Truth in Budgeting Act. Like other expenditures from the highway trust fund, these boating safety expenditures would be taken off budget by that act.
I now recognize Mr. Clement for any statement he may have.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to congratulate you, as the new chairman of the Coast Guard Subcommittee, and I'm sure looking forward to working with you and our other members on the democrat and republican side.
Over the past decade, we've seen a decrease in a number of Americans killed in boating accidents; however, in 1995, 844 Americans died in accidents related to recreational vessels. This is even more alarming because it is a significant increase over the 784 people killed in 1994.
Recreational boating is becoming more popular than ever before in our history, whether it is with our sailboats or power boats or jet skis; however, many people do not fully appreciate how dangerous the water can be.
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The Coast Guard's boating safety program has helped to educate the program and supports State boating safety efforts.
Mr. Chairman, I'm becoming increasingly alarmed about the insufficient funds that are appropriated to prevent these deaths.
The Appropriations Committee has not appropriated funds for this program at the levels we have authorized. For fiscal year 1997, only $45 million of the $70 million we authorized for this program was actually appropriated.
Because of these concerns, I supported our efforts to include the boating safety account in H.R. 4, the Truth in Budgeting Act, which, when it was ordered, reported by this committee a few weeks ago.
While I understand that a technical amendment may be required to ensure that the Administration interprets H.R. 4 to include this account, it is clearly this committee's intent that the boating safety program be freed up from the budget scoring constraints in the same manner that the highway trust fund, the airport trust fund, and the harbor maintenance fund will be treated.
I also look forward to hearing from today's witnesses on what they see as the major challenges ahead for this program and what more we can do to promote boating safety and save lives.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The boaters of this country have paid for this program through the motor boat fuel tax. This is a user-fee-based system, and it is only fair that they reap the benefits through the Coast Guard's boating safety program.
And, Admiral, I want you to know I'm sorry, as I know all of us on the committee are, about the tragedy that occurred that the chairman commented about earlier. My fine staff person over here and myself had the opportunity to visit the Motor Life Boat School at Astoria, Oregon, and rode in that same boat--or one of the same type boats, I should say--that was responsible for the loss of life.
I know the Coast Guard does an outstanding job, and I'm looking forward to you and others testifying today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
Mr. Pitts, any opening comment?
Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I don't have any prepared remarks. I would also like to congratulate you on your chairmanship. I'm looking forward to working with you and hearing the testimony today.
Thank you very much.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Mr. JOHNSON. I'll just concur in the congratulations in this Coast Guard Committee. Being on the Great Lakes in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we appreciate the work of the Coast Guard very much in Lake Michigan. Growing up on Lake Superior, I appreciate the work up there, too. So we know the fine work.
Boating safety is very important in our District in northeast Wisconsin. We've got a lot of lakes, lot of rivers, and, of course, the Great Lakes, so we appreciate this very much.
Mr. GILCHREST. That's beautiful country. I guess we can expect two tickets or more to the next Super Bowl next January.
Mr. JOHNSON. That's right. I think you have to check with the folks out in California. I think that's where it's being held. They probably have control of the tickets more than I do.
Mr. GILCHREST. We might want to strike that from the record.
I also want to thank the Members for congratulating me on adding 40 more hours of work to my week as chairman of this committee. But I look forward to working with everyone on these issues.
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Anybody's statement that they would like to have included in the record, we will do so.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shuster follows:]
Mr. GILCHREST. Now I am pleased to welcome our first witness, Rear Admiral James T. Hull, director of operations policy, United States Coast Guard.
I would like to remind the witnesses that we would like to have your statements be limited to 5 minutes, and anything else you may have beyond that will certainly be included in the record.
I now recognize Rear Admiral Hull to testify.
Good morning, sir.
TESTIMONY OF REAR ADMIRAL JAMES D. HULL, DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS POLICY, U.S. COAST GUARD
Admiral HULL. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for your kind remarks regarding the accident out on the West Coast.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do appreciate the opportunity to appear today before this committee to discuss the reauthorization of the boating safety program. This is an extremely important program to the Coast Guard and to the American public.
As part of our multi-mission role to provide quality services to the American public, the Coast Guard is charged with coordinating the national recreational boating safety program. To do this, we have to partner with many other organizations--State, local, private--and, of course our Auxiliary.
An estimated 76 million Americans, one-fourth of the United States' population, is involved in some type of recreational boating activity. Unfortunately, as was mentioned, boating safety is second only to motor vehicles in transportation-related fatalities. As a result, the National Transportation Safety Board does rate this as one of its highest priorities.
As the Federal component of the national recreational boating safety program, the Coast Guard's direct involvement in this system has many facets, and I think you mentioned quite a few of them, but some of them are: directing national outreach efforts, setting educational standards, acting as the Consumer Product Safety Commission for boats and associated equipment, and establishing both national and international manufacturing standards.
We also, as you are well aware, operate and maintain an extensive search and rescue infrastructure, conduct law enforcement operations, and maintain thousands of aids to navigation.
In its specific role, the Coast Guard has tried to increase our boating safety awareness program in the last couple of years by expanding the National Safe Boating Week to a year-round campaign. Our primary theme for 1996 and 1997 is, ''Life jackets: they float, you don't.'' We are hopeful that the Coast Guard-approved inflatable personal flotation devices under regulations issued last year will result in more people wearing these devices.
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A second message, ''Stay afloat, don't booze and boat,'' focuses on the very serious issue of boating under the influence of alcohol.
As the boating population continues to grow, it is imperative that all available resources are tapped to address the boating safety problems. Toward that end, we have expanded our efforts for partnering with additional organizations in the private sector.
Recently, we teamed with Metrpolitan Property and Casualty Company (Met P&C) to promote safety on the water though development of a boating safety booklet that Met P&C distributes to the public at no cost. I will give you one of these that you can have. It includes the Peanuts cartoon which Charles Schulz has allowed us to use in our campaign this year.
It is also important that we transfer knowledge learned in one State to the other 50 States. Minnesota, has a PFD--personal flotation device--Panda program which our Coast Guard Auxiliary has taken up, and many other States have used it, and it's a very successful program.
In addition, funding made available to the Coast Guard from the boat safety account for grants to national nonprofit public service organizations has made possible numerous boating safety initiatives, such as improved accident reporting systems and procedures, through a wide range of different organizations. There are many other examples.
However, despite our successes, there is still much more to be done. The most critical component of the recreational boating safety program is the State grant program. The States provide services to millions of boaters on inland waters where the Coast Guard has no facilities and on State waters where the Coast Guard doesn't have jurisdiction.
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The States, ever since the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, have continued to assume a larger share of responsibility for this program and have continued to provide more funding in this regard.
I see the yellow light is on, so I'll move to the high points.
Our job is not over. As more and more people look to our waterways for recreation and as a way to relieve stress in their daily lives, adequate funding is very important for the success of this program.
As I've stated, the States' role is critical. Our combined efforts are truly greater than the sum of the parts. Most importantly, we, the Coast Guard and the States and the private community, reaffirm our mutual commitment to the safety of the American boating public in the future.
I'll sum up what we want to do. We want to: reduce the number of deaths on the water; remove drunk and drugged boaters; educate people on responsible vessel operation, particularly personal watercraft; and encourage the use of personal flotation devices by all boaters, not just the young but everyone that uses the water.
That's our job, and working together I think we can do that.
I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, and the rest of the Members, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much, Admiral. We would have given you a little flexibility there.
I'll call on Mr. Clement to begin the questioning.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral Hull, of the 844 people killed in 1995 in boating accidents, what number of those accidents involved the use of alcohol?
Admiral HULL. Our records indicate roughly 50 percent of those involved the use of alcohol.
Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral Hull, what is the single largest cause of recreational boating accidents?
Admiral HULL. Not paying attention to what they're doing, basically--inattention, which can be a result of alcohol, can be a result of many other factors. But it's really not paying attention to what they're doing while they're using the waters.
Mr. CLEMENT. Were there any particular types of vessels that were involved in more accidents than others?
Admiral HULL. Basically the small, open boats are the most frequently involved in accidents. I could provide more particulars on that, but that's probably the best generalization.
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Mr. CLEMENT. What information is the Coast Guard receiving from the Marine Index Bureau Foundation, and is it helping to improve your knowledge about recreational boating accidents?
Admiral HULL. It helped greatly. It helped focus the insurance industry on the problems that were there. It helped identify that things were not reported that should have been reported.
We used their services through the nonprofit grant program from 1992 to 1994, and we've used the information they've given us to update our procedures, and we're continuing to better our process.
Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral Hull, the NHTSA recommended that the Coast Guard improve their boating fatality data by standardizing the accident reporting system in ways similar to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's fatal accident reporting system. Has the Coast Guard standardized their reporting system since the issuance of this report?
Admiral HULL. We continue to make it better. We've used the information. We've talked to the NHTSA. We're not going to use exactly their system. They're not totally compatible. But we feel we have made great improvements in this area and are getting better information.
I'm not going to say that we get all the information yet. Part of that goes with training the States and the accident investigators to give us the right kind of information, so we continue to work in that direction.
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Mr. CLEMENT. Admiral, in a State that does not have a drunken boater law, is it possible for the Coast Guard to delegate to a State marine patrol the power to enforce the Federal alcohol limit for boaters?
Admiral HULL. We'd have to study that and work with that particular State. Some States do, in fact, have the authority to enforce Federal laws; others do not.
I would say that that's a very important part of our program.
I just came from Florida, where Governor Chiles just signed a bill on boating under the influence in a ceremony, with the Seventh District Commander.
It's a complicated process concerning jurisdiction, so we have to work with the States attorneys, and the law enforcement officers.
Yes, I think there is room to make improvements, and we're working all over the country. But in terms of delegating, I'd have to get back to you.
[The information received follows:]
The Coast Guard may delegate the authority to enforce the Federal statute (46 U.S.C. 2302(c)) and its regulations (33 C.F.R. Part 95), including the standard of intoxication (33 C.F.R. 95.020). To States that do not have a Boating While under the Influence statute, the statute has both civil and criminal penalties. A delegation to such States of the authority to enforce the civil penalty provisions of the statute may be attempted through administrative rulemaking procedure with notice and opportunity for comment. A delegation to such States of the authority to enforce the criminal provisions of the statute is problematic in that a State's power to prosecute is derived from its own inherent sovereignty and not from the Federal Government. Of course, such States could simply adopt the Federal statute and its regulations and avoid any issue as to delegation or sovereignty.
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Mr. CLEMENT. One of the witnesses today will testify that in terms of manpower and resources the Coast Guard boating safety program is now a pale shadow of what it was 10 years ago.
How much money and how many FTEs did the Coast Guard allocate to the boating safety program and how much is allocated today?
Admiral HULL. Back in the 1980s we had over 500 people involved in the program. But since that time the States have taken a much greater proportion of the responsibility--I would say some of the funding and the actual programs.
Today we have 26 people in Washington-- and 11 people in the field, but that really understates, in my opinion, what we do for boating safety.
Our Auxiliary is out doing boat safety at all times. All of our law enforcement officers, and in fact any Coast Guard person, that comes in contact with the public providespublic awareness information.
We've also become smarter, and I think our association with NASBLA and other organizations has allowed us to provide better, as well as more, services to the public.
Mr. CLEMENT. And my last question, Admiral: what are the Coast Guard's goals for the boating safety program under the Government Performance and Review Act?
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Admiral HULL. To reduce boating fatalities by 10 percent. Hopefully we can do that. It's not necessarily promising at this time because the numbers have risen, but we are aggressively looking at ways to reduce fatalities.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
Mr. PITTS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral, you mentioned in your testimony the sharp rise in boating accidents compared to last year. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this sharp rise?
Admiral HULL. I don't have the exact answer to that right now. I can summarize, I think, to say there are many more boaters every year. There are more boats on the waterways. Personal watercraft--originally we thought that might be one of the largest causes, but, in fact, only 60 deaths can be attributed to personal watercraft. That number is up, but only slightly. There are far more accidents than deaths in that area. I think boating under the influence is a major contributing factor.
So it's a wide range, and I don't think we have the real answer to what exactly caused it.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PITTS. In looking at the various types of accidents, do you have a breakdown as to where a sharp rise? Was it in the use of alcohol that it occurred, or speed, or what?
Admiral HULL. I don't think we have the exact answer there yet. We're still evaluating the data. Again, inattention--public education can resolve that, but I can provide that information to you.
Mr. PITTS. All right.
[The information received follows:]
There was a sharp rise in the number of drownings where the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Forty-nine more people died as a result of capsizing accidents in 1995 than in 1994. This type of accident happens most often with small boats (less than 16 feet in length) that are improperly loaded with passengers and gear. There were 47 more fatalities reported on motorboats and 22 additional fatalities reported on canoes/kayaks. Practically all of these victims drowned. Eighty-eight percent of all boating fatalities were not wearing their life jacket. Of the 653 drownings reported in 1995, 590 of the victims were not wearing their life jackets: an increase from 546 in 1994.
Mr. PITTS. What activities does the Coast Guard use to identify and remove people who are on the water and using alcohol or drunk?
Admiral HULL. We have a Federal blood alcohol standard which our people use. We can actually test individuals and then turn them over to State authorities if they exceed the minimum standard.
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Mr. PITTS. You mentioned, I think, you're authorized to receive $35 million from the boat safety account for boating safety programs. Have these funds been consistently appropriated to the Coast Guard for this purpose?
Admiral HULL. We've been authorized funding levels by this committee, but we have not necessarily always received all of those funds through the appropriation process.
Mr. PITTS. If you've not received them, what happens to the excess funds in the boating safety account?
Admiral HULL. The excess funds roll over to the Sport Fish Restoration Account.
Mr. PITTS. All right. The NTSB issued a report making several recommendations, I understand. Can you elaborate on some of these recommendations?
Admiral HULL. Yes, sir.
The NTSB did make recommendations to the governors and legislative leaders of the States, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to enact or strengthen legislation addressing alcohol use by recreational boaters.
The NTSB has promoted and supported State alcohol legislation, and much progress has been made.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Operating a boat under the influence is illegal in all 56 States and territories, and more than 50 States and territories now have a blood alcohol concentration intoxication level standard in their laws.
NTSB also directed a recommendation to NASBLA to seek legislative action that would require a chemical test to determine alcohol concentration.
At least half of the States require a blood, breath, or urine test. All but four States allow these tests. We continue to push this.
Additionally, a recommendation to both NASBLA and the Coast Guard called for cooperation in developing guidelines to be used by the States to implement minimum recreational boating safety standards to reduce the number and severity of accidents, considering requirements such as mandatory use of personal flotation devices for children, demonstration of operator knowledge of safe boating rules and skills, and operating licenses.
The Coast Guard, in consultation with NASBLA and the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations, agreed that age 12 and below would require mandatory wearing of PFDs while on recreational boats. About half of the States and territories do have mandatory PFD wear for children at this time, ranging in years from 5 to under 13.
There were three other recommendations directed to the Coast Guard dealing with improving boating accident reporting, evaluating and encouraging State programs aimed at curbing alcohol use in boating, and use of funding authority to require State plans to increase personal flotation device usage.
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Regarding the accident data and reporting, we are working with the States on a report to Congress on ways to increase accident reporting, and that looks to be favorable, and we should have that before too long.
Regarding alcohol programs, the Coast Guard continuously reviews all the State grants and checks to see what they're doing and tries to encourage, like I've stated, an active outreach program.
Regarding PFD wear, current law does not provide discretion to use funding authority to require State plans to increase PFD wear; however, this is a cornerstone of our programs that we have today. Again, the ''Life jackets float, you don't,'' campaign is part of that process.
Additionally, I did mention inflatable PFDs. We're going to be looking at that very closely to see what effect this has on wearing PFDs, because they'll be more user friendly. And that hopefully, will have a positive effect on fatality statistics.
Mr. PITTS. Thank you, Admiral.
One other question. Do you know how many boaters, recreational boaters, take the boating safety course? And how can we increase the number of people taking that course?
Admiral HULL. Our records show that roughly a million people in the country receive some type of boating safety education course in a year. That can be accomplished in many different ways, for example, through the Internet, through the Auxiliary, and the Power Squadrons.
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In order to reach more boaters, the States should recognize--which I think they do--that the out reach program is important, and, making individuals realize that taking these courses is critical, because many people just don't, as all of us who use the water are aware at various times.
So, it's an outreach effort. It's a function of resources and commitment by everybody involved to educate the public.
Mr. PITTS. And what percentage is that of the recreational boaters, the one million?
Admiral HULL. We have roughly 76 million boaters. I believe that's correct. We have 76 million boaters and one million a year receive training. Some of them can be repeats from year to year, of course.
Mr. PITTS. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Pitts.
Mr. JOHNSON. I wonder--a question if you have a judgment on it, Admiral--the amount of time that the Coast Guard gets to work on boating safety that may be distracted by being the ambulance chasers in boating where you're called out to help stranded boaters and providing kinds of services that you really weren't designed for. Do you have an estimate of maybe some of this time that may be taken away from actually enforcing boater safety, helping enforce boater safety, that may be called upon to be caretaker of careless boaters? Is it a problem?
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Admiral HULL. I think there is always a problem there. How large it is, I don't have a handle on. I don't think it's a major problem by any stretch of the imagination. But I just came from Florida, where I was involved in operations, and that's a very large boating public.
If we get wind of somebody doing something, reporting a false distress or something, we aggressively pursue them and enforce whatever laws we can against that individual. And that happens every once in a while. It has happened in Massachusetts, it has happened elsewhere.
With commercial towing firms these days, we have a process in place that we no longer just give gas to people if they're not in emergent distress. We turn that over to the commercial enterprise so that we can husband our resources for the critical cases.
So I don't think it's a major problem. I think it's something we always pay attention to. And I think we try to educate the public as much as possible through all the means I mentioned.
Mr. JOHNSON. Are you satisfied with the Federal boating safety laws? Obviously, it's not uniform as you go from State to State. Are you satisfied with the extent of the Federal boat safety laws?
Admiral HULL. I think there are probably some minor adjustments we could make to it, but basically I know the people that are going to testify later and myself have talked, as well as some of the committee, and we're pretty satisfied, over the last 25 years, that this has served us very well.
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Again, I think that it's a function of how much we want to dedicate from the U.S. Government to this cause and how serious we consider the 851 people that died in 1995, as well as all the accidents and property. I think that's the issue for discussion.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you. I have no other questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.
Admiral Hull, could you go through, very briefly, exactly what happens when a Coast Guard vessel comes across a vessel, whether it be in the coastal waters or in a freshwater lake? Well, let's say the Great Lakes. What exactly happens when you come across someone that is intoxicated. From the time you board their boat, what's the next step? How do you first consider that someone is intoxicated to the point where they should be apprehended?
Admiral HULL. First, I'll make the generalization it's no different, really, than it is for a policeman. You notice erratic behavior. You can notice slurred speech. You can notice their eyes dilated. There's a whole procedure we go through to train our boarding officers.
We don't necessarily go out and look for these people, but if we happen to notice them, or in the course of a normal boarding we observe something we will then look closely at these particular individuals.
We will work with the local authorities. We have tests to determine whether we think they are intoxicated under drugs or alcohol. And then we'll work with the local authorities to turn them over to them and provide them the evidence package that we have and how we made our decision.
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Mr. GILCHREST. So would their boat then be towed somewhere?
Admiral HULL. Usually our people would take it and drive it or tow it. Or, if there was somebody else on the boat that was qualified to operate it, they would follow us in.
It can go from all levels--again, just like the rest of society. If the guy is belligerent, which happens, we have the authority to handcuff him.
Mr. GILCHREST. Will it vary from State to State what the Coast Guard enforcement of that regulation is? Can the Coast Guard ever apprehend someone and then take them to the Coast Guard station, or do they call in the Fish and Game or Department of Natural Resources?
Admiral HULL. What we would do depends on the areas and what local forces are in place. But we usually take them, and then the local sheriffs will meet us at the dock.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see.
Admiral HULL. Or if there is a marine patrolman out there, they may come and assist us during the boarding. If Customs is doing something and they come across somebody, they'll call us.
It's really who is there and what the laws are in the area.
I was surprised that, when you're dealing with different jurisdictions up and down the coast and around the country, there really are different rules for who enforces this in the different jurisdictions.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Are there different rules for different boats, or is it all--I mean, if someone is out there paddling drunk in a canoe or they're in a----
Admiral HULL. It's the same.
Mr. GILCHREST.----40-foot sailboat, or a 30-foot cigarette boat, it's basically the same?
Admiral HULL. It's the same for anybody, no matter what their economic status is, no matter what kind of craft they're in.
Mr. GILCHREST. Could you address the issue of boarding? Is there ever a time that the Coast Guard in any area of the U.S.--would they ever need a search warrant, or could they always board a vessel?
Admiral HULL. Under the law--and I'm not a lawyer, so I'll give my operational view of how this is, and we can provide the exact specifics for the record. We do have more authority on the high seas, and that's what we've used historically since the founding of the Coast Guard. The circumstances are different than on land to board boats whether from a safety, a law enforcement, or a Customs perspective, and to determine what exactly is taking place.
[The information received follows:]
The Coast Guard is usually not required to obtain a search warrant prior to boarding a vessel for an inspection or search. The typical safety and documentation inspection boarding has been ruled as ''reasonable'' under the Fourth Amendment and courts routinely hold that vessel searches at sea are subject to the ''exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.'' On occasions in which the Coast Guard participates in a multi-agency ''dockside search'' of a vessel, the Coast Guard has deferred to the judgment of those agencies which insisted that a warrant be obtained to guarantee the admissibility of search findings.
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Mr. GILCHREST. So the Coast Guard has the authority to use its discretion when to board a vessel?
Admiral HULL. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Now, does that mean the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, a place called Turner's Creek, which is a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay? When you say the ''high seas,'' does that also include any area where the Coast Guard is patrolling?
Admiral HULL. The answer is yes to the first question. The ''high seas'' are those waters located seaward of the territorial sea of any nation.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
You mentioned a number of years ago there were some 500 Coast Guard personnel involved in the boating safety program, and that has been significantly reduced, I guess--you said to 26 in Washington and 11 full-time people in the field.
Have the other several hundred people been adequately replaced by the States, nonprofit organizations, to the degree that you feel that the program is sufficiently run?
Admiral HULL. As long as there are any deaths, we don't have enough people. But that's the larger issue.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, in fact, have they been replaced? I can't answer directly, if there has been a one-for-one replacement. To some extent it is true since we do things differently than we did in those days.
There actually are a lot more boats today with fewer people doing boating safety, but the statistics have been going down until just recently.
I'll clarify my comment and then I'll answer your question.
There were 575 positions in 1980, but of those 575 positions, 157 were used to administer the Auxiliary. That has been moved to a different location within the Coast Guard. They still are involved in boating safety activity. There were 223 Coast Guardsmen assigned to boating safety detachments--something that, because of budget reductions and really the realignment of States taking a greater role, was reduced.
Were they replaced? I'd say there are probably more people out in the States doing that job by far today, when all the marine patrol and other personnel involved are counted.
And our funding does, in fact, enable the States to put more law enforcement officers on patrol and educate the boating public.
So I think, to answer your statement, yes, I think we have replaced them in a concerted way. Have we done enough? I'll leave that to you, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess my question was, during this transition--and I know that we're under a budget crisis probably for the next generation, but as long as the transition between the Coast Guard representing the Federal end of this can reach in and have a cooperative program with States, local governments, auxiliaries, volunteers, it may even improve the quality of the program with more people involved in it.
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Just one more question, Admiral. I have a number of questions--and I'm sure maybe some other members of the subcommittee have other questions which we would like to submit for the record and send to you for response.
But my last question has to do with the one crew member that survived that tragedy in Washington State. We'd like to know how he is doing. And then I guess a quick comment on the Coast Guard's policy for responding to crisis, hazardous situations.
Admiral HULL. The one individual, Seaman Wingo, received relatively minor injuries. He was pretty bruised and battered and shocked, and we send anybody that undergoes those types of experiences through our crisis intervention program. A lot of support was provided from everybody around the Government.
He's looking forward to coming back to duty. He's not back on duty right now, as I understand it. But we're providing support to him and he's doing fine.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. And all of us up here would like to send our words of support to him.
Admiral HULL. I'll make sure I take that back to him personally, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Admiral HULL. You asked about crisis response. Are you talking about a case similar to that?
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Mr. GILCHREST. Yes.
Admiral HULL. How would we respond? That's our job. That's our life blood. Somebody calls up the Coast Guard and says they're in trouble, we assume it's a real case. We investigate, through our standard procedures, so that we are uniform across the country.
In this particular case there was a crisis. We had assets to respond. You evaluate the weather. You evaluate all the different situations that exist. The weather was not very good. It was in the middle of the night. But there were two lives at stake because of the possibility going on the jetty.
It was the decision of the people on scene that two boats would go out. One went out first. The other backup boat got underway shortly therafter.
And we all like to say--you know, the old adage is, ''You have to go out. But you don't have to come back.'' That used to be a statement a long time ago. That's not true. We all have to go out and we all have to come back. But this is a very dangerous mission that we do perform, and a lot of young people of the U.S. go out and do this on a daily basis. This just kind of spotlights that issue.
But we do have procedures, and I think they're tried and true.
We do have a Mishap Analysis Board, a standard process we will go through and look to find out if we did, in fact, do everything right and, in fact, if there is anything we should do differently so that this doesn't happen in the future.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much.
Those young men showed great courage.
Admiral HULL. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Admiral, thank you for your testimony.
Admiral HULL. Thank you, sir. I look forward to working with all the members of your committee.
Mr. GILCHREST. Yes, sir.
Now I would like to introduce our second panel: Mr. Ed Carter, president, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and chief, boating division, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Mr. CLEMENT. Amen.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Clement says amen. I'm not exactly sure why.
We also have Ms. Veronica Floyd, co-chair, American League of Anglers and Boaters; Colonel John Rhoads, superintendent, National Resources Police Force, the great State of Maryland; Mr. Michael Sciulla, vice president, Boat Owners Association of the United States.
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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.
I now recognize Mr. Carter.
TESTIMONY OF ED CARTER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE BOATING LAW ADMINISTRATORS, AND CHIEF, BOATING DIVISION, TENNESSEE WILDLIFE RESOURCES AGENCY; VERONICA MCCANN FLOYD, CO-CHAIR, AMERICAN LEAGUE OF ANGLERS AND BOATERS, AND WASHINGTON REPRESENTATIVE, BRUNSWICK CORP.; COLONEL JOHN W. RHOADS, SUPERINTENDENT, NATURAL RESOURCES POLICE FORCE, STATE OF MARYLAND; AND MICHAEL G. SCIULLA, VICE PRESIDENT, BOAT OWNERS ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. CARTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's certainly a pleasure to be before the committee today.
I'm here to represent the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, but, more importantly, I think, probably, representing the individual States like Tennessee and Maryland that make up that association.
Regardless of the type of government agency in the State that we're housed in, or whether our officers are called ''marine patrol officers'' or ''natural resources police,'' we are directly responsible for about 76 million Americans who enjoy recreational boating in the United States.
I'd like to say, really not in a boastful way but in a very proud way, that I think we do a very good job with the resources we have at hand.
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As already has been stated, though, each year more people die in recreational boating accidents than the more highly publicized rail and airlines accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board, as you mentioned earlier, put us on their most wanted list of recreational boating safety improvements.
We're here today to ask you to help us get off that list. That's our main goal, I think.
I think you can do that by continuing to recognize the need for well-funded State boating programs, as this committee has certainly done in the past, and we're gladly held accountable for those funds and we're proud of them.
As a matter of fact, we have developed a video which shows what State boating programs are about and how the funds are utilized, and we will be distributing those, with your permission, to the members of the committee.
We're proud of our association, as well, with the United States Coast Guard in the statutory responsibility we have on joint jurisdiction waters. They're a very highly respected and professional organization, and their heroics and their dedication has been already talked about to some extent this morning, and we certainly recognize that.
The fact is, however, if you do not live in a coastal or Great Lakes State, your chance of seeing a Coast Guard person or having a Coast Guard presence is not very good at all. That's not a criticism of the Coast Guard, but rather it's a function of a well-designed plan and a well-though-out plan that shifts the share of the boating safety responsibility from the Coast Guard to the States.
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Also notice that it was not only a plan by Congress to shift those responsibilities, but you saw the way to fund that, and you have by creating this trust fund from the tax that boaters pay on their fuel and then is redistributed back to the States on a user fee concept.
I also want to emphasize that it's not a hand-out. It must be matched by the States on a one-to-one basis, and right now the States are spending about $5 for every dollar that we do receive from the Federal Government to this particular grant program.
But historically we have had a problem receiving the funds that have been authorized. One thing, we generally split the funds that come to this program with the Coast Guard, between the States and the Coast Guard operations programs.
We recognize the contribution, as I said earlier, that the Coast Guard is making in boating safety programs and the fact that the funds are utilized well wherever they are, but the fact is that these funds do not seem to impact the Coast Guard budget in a very positive way, other than from a source of funds issue and the fact that they're still keeping with the user fee concept for boaters paying for what they get.
But the even bigger problem is in receiving the funds or the cap on our funds, appropriations that are less than authorized limits, and the automatic roll-over that goes from this fund into the sport fish restoration account if the money isn't utilized in boating safety.
When we began this program, about 70 percent of the funds were authorized for boating safety, but then fiscal year 1997, including the $10 million that came over from the Clean Vessel Act, the States are actually receiving less than 28 percent of that total motor boat fuel tax.
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Of that State share that has come back, 2 percent of it goes to the Coast Guard for administration, which we support and think it's a wise use, and 5 percent for nonprofit grants for persons involved in boating safety programs.
Again, we support it, and I only mention it, in fact, to show you that, even though States' funds are recognized as State funds, there are many organizations that benefit from those, even though they're not directly involved in State government.
Regarding our association, I'll just mention simply that we have similar goals that are found in the Federal Boat Safety Act. Several programs in different States lean toward uniformity and reciprocity so that boaters moving from one area to another have some expectation of equal treatment.
Of course, we have safety always in mind. I could mention, as most of these people could, several personal issues of stopping overloaded boats, for instance, of a young fellow who was 11 years old that I stopped. I wanted to talk to him about life jackets and the importance of them, and less than an hour later I helped to recover that same young man's body because he did not follow those instructions and the importance of those.
We could tell war stories like that all day, and we certainly won't take your time, but know that that's an unpleasant part of the job. But we're looking, through these funds, to increase our positive side so that we would rather be the ones that say, ''We found them. They're in our boat. We're coming back in.''
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The program is working. There were about 1,700 fatalities a year when the program first began, and now it's down to about half of that.
I will simply end by saying that there's a good plan that you've put together here between the type of programs and how they are funded, but, for various reasons, we haven't received those funds. As a matter of fact, $180 million that you have authorized to us has not been coming to the boating funds in the time period that we have had the Wallop-Breaux program.
I appreciate the support that this committee has had. We look forward to working with you and all the members of the committee in this entire program, and I thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Carter.
Ms. FLOYD. I am Veronica McCann Floyd, Washington representative for the Brunswick Corporation.
Brunswick is a multinational company serving outdoor and indoor active recreation markets which include Zebco and Quantum fishing reels and reel/rod combos; Sea Ray and Bayliner pleasure boats; Boston Whaler offshore fishing boats; Mercury, Mariner, and Force outboard engines and MerCruiser stern drives and inboard engines.
Mr. Chairman, as you very well know, Bayliner Boats has a manufacturing facility right here in Salisbury, Maryland, which employs 200 people presently, and they hope to add another 50 or 60 as the year goes on.
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Thus, you see that boating safety programs are of utmost importance to Brunswick Corporation.
I also appear before you today as co-chair of the American League of Anglers and Boaters. ALAB is a strong alliance of the Nation's most important recreational fishing and boating advocacy organizations.
I thank you for holding this hearing today.
ALAB member organizations' specific interests will vary, depending on the constituency that they represent, but they continue to serve as a vigilant patron and supporter of the dedicated user-funding philosophy which Congress used in 1984 to construct the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, of which the boat safety account is a part.
As you are well aware, boat safety trust fund dollars are derived solely from the Federal excise tax America's 70 million boaters pay on the purchase of their motor boat fuel. Taxes attributable annually to motor boat fuel purchases average at least $150 million.
The 1984 law creating the Wallop-Breaux program provided for a return of a portion of this user fee paid by America's recreational boaters to the States to help fund educational and safety services to recreational boaters.
ALAB believes this is a prime example of the user fee concept where the user pays and the user benefits.
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Current law presently allows a maximum authorization/appropriation of 70 million in grants to the States. Should Congress fail to appropriate all monies for boating safety, the surplus automatically carries over into the Sport Fish Restoration Account of the fund, where it is used for fisheries enhancement and other purposes.
Monies under the Sport Fish Restoration Account are made available under a permanent appropriation provision requiring no annual action by Congress.
ALAB is on record supporting permanent appropriation for the Boat Safety Account programs. During the second session of the 103rd Congress and again in the 104th Congress, legislation was actively considered to provide stable and dependable funds for grants to the States for boating safety programs. We regret that these provisions were not enacted.
Over the years, the Boat Safety Account and the programs and recreational boaters it supports Nationwide have been shortchanged by not receiving the full funding. The price has increased the risk of injury and death to our Nation's 70 million boaters. ALAB believes that this is a break of faith with America's boaters and fishermen who pay the user fee on the gasoline and their motor boats.
ALAB also recognizes that, while boating safety nationwide does continue to improve, the National Transportation Safety Board feels that even more can and should be done to further improve the safety of recreational boating.
We feel that this can best be accomplished by providing continued stable funding to the States for their programs via the full authorization and appropriation process of these user fee dollars.
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ALAB looks forward to working with you to devise a measure to provide full appropriation of the State Boat Safety Account programs for fiscal year 1998 and beyond.
Members of Congress, the Administration, the boating public, and most certainly ALAB, believe that the States will make very effective use of these trust fund dollars.
The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators proudly proclaims our reward is saving a life, and what a wonderful reward that is.
On behalf of the members of ALAB, I ask again for your support in providing the full and permanent authorization and appropriation of these trust fund dollars so that the States can continue to pursue their goal of safe and enjoyable boating for all who use our Nation's waterways.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Ms. Floyd.
Colonel RHOADS. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I am Colonel John W. Rhoads. I'm the superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police. The Natural Resources Police in Maryland is the State agency responsible for ensuring the safety of recreational boaters in Maryland.
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One of our primary responsibilities is boating law enforcement and conducting search and rescue operations on Maryland waters. In this respect, we work very closely with the United States Coast Guard.
I'm here today to testify in regard to the Wallop-Breaux funds, and I'd like to describe, if I can, the use of those funds in the State of Maryland, which I believe is probably typical of the use of these funds throughout the State organizations.
The first part of the funding is used in our boating safety education program. In 1988, Maryland became the first State to require boat operators to pass the safe boating course. Maryland law requires every motor boat operator born after July 1 of 1972 to pass an improved boating safety course and to have their boating safety certificate on board the vessel when it is operated on Maryland waters.
The boating safety education program is responsible for the tracking and issuing of boating safety education certificates, as well as developing, updating, and teaching the Maryland basic boating course.
As a result of the diligent efforts of the boating safety staff and the Outdoor Education Division and Requirements for boat operators to have passed a safe boating course, many Maryland public school systems have incorporated that Maryland basic boating course in their curriculum.
Last year approximately 250 Maryland basic boating courses were offered, with approximately 5,000 students in attendance.
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In addition to the basic boating course, the Natural Resources Police Outdoor Education and Division also is responsible for administering the specialized boating safety education programs geared toward young children. These programs include ''PFD Panda and Waterwise.''
In response to the recent and dramatic increase in the use of personal watercraft, the NRP Outdoor Education Division has developed a ''PWC Train the Trainer'' course. We are teaching people how to train people to use these personal watercraft, and we believe that they are a problem that will be exacerbated in the very near future.
Last year, as I said, we had a dramatic increase in deaths as a result of them--three deaths in the State of Maryland, but dramatic in that there were no deaths in the year before as a result of personal watercraft.
In response to this trend, we've developed, as I said, a safety program targeted towards the livery operations of these personal watercraft, and we've developed videos and boating safety training for the livery operators, themselves.
The Natural Resources Police is the primary law enforcement agency in Maryland with the authority and ability to enforce State boating laws and regulations. Working side by side with the Coast Guard, it also serves as the primary State search and rescue entity on Maryland waters.
The agency has 208 sworn law enforcement positions and maintains a fleet of approximately 125 patrol boats ranging in size from 14 feet to 36 feet in length. Of these vessels, 15 are dedicated to mobile enforcement teams, which include an 18-foot patrol boat, trailer, and four-wheel drive vehicle.
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As the name implies, these teams are highly mobile and capable of responding to any location in the State.
Boating safety enforcement and search and rescue are the responsibilities of the Field Operations Bureau, which is comprised of the uniform patrol force.
Funding from Wallop-Breaux boating safety account supports approximately 57 percent of the operating budget, excluding salaries of the Field Operations Bureau. Obviously, the loss of these funds would be devastating to effective field enforcement.
Officers spent about 5,700 hours on boat patrols and conducted approximately 98,000 boardings of vessels to ensure compliance with safety equipment requirements. They issued about 3,000 citations and about 10,000 warnings regarding boating-related violations, and they responded to approximately 5,000 boating-related complaints or incidents.
Although the protection of human life and property is the primary mission of the Natural Resources Police, so, too, is the conservation and protection of Maryland's aquatic resources.
Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, in addition to being a beautiful and bountiful estuary, provides a perfect venue for recreational boating.
The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, as well as Maryland's coastal bays and territorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean, play host to over 200,000 registered and documented vessels. Add to this number the thousands of transient recreational boaters visiting Maryland's waters each year and you will easily realize the magnitude of the challenge to boating safety.
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I trust that you will also recognize the significance of funds provided to the Natural Resources Police through the Wallop-Breaux safety account in meeting that challenge.
We'd like to thank you for your patience in accepting this testimony, as well as your attention to the vitally important issue before you. I hope that I have provided you with information required to make a clear and equitable decision.
This funding is extremely important, and one of the issues that we find ourselves in is not knowing from year to year exactly where we're going to be with that fund.
In 1994 we received approximately $900,000. This year we're going to receive approximately $1.4 million, and we're asking that the $35 million that NASBLA has talked to you about be that amount that would be there for States so that we would know in advance of our budgeting just how much money we could look for from this fund.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be here.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Colonel Rhoads.
Mr. SCIULLA. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Good morning.
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Mr. SCIULLA. And Mr. Clement.
I am Michael Sciulla, vice president of Boat Owners Association of the United States. We are an organization of over 500,000 recreational boat owners, including 35,000 in the State of Maryland, where one out of every five boaters is a BOAT/U.S. member.
We are honored to be asked to testify this morning on the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
Let me begin, Mr. Chairman, by saying that we are absolutely delighted that the representative of the Nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, has taken over the helm of this subcommittee. We know that you have a deep appreciation of our Nation's waterways and for the people who both work and recreate on them.
And, Mr. Clement, we're delighted to see you return again this year. And, as you know, we've worked very closely with you over the years, and we appreciate your interest in boating safety.
Mr. Chairman, we consider the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund to be a landmark legislative achievement. Simply put, the fund collects the gas taxes paid by boaters and anglers and returns the money to the States for boating safety and to spawn more fish for anglers.
In theory, it is a prime example of the user pays/user benefits principle. While the fund has sailed smoothly along for more than a decade, we believe that a number of mid-course corrections are in order to ensure that there is a fair and equitable distribution of the funds based on those who pay the taxes.
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The problem facing the program is that, while recreational boaters have paid in excess of $1.4 billion in motor boat fuel taxes over the last 12 fiscal years, only 24 cents out of every dollar has been returned to the States for boating safety and law enforcement. There are a number of reasons for this.
During fiscal year 1992, the last time that the full $35 million authorization was fully appropriated, the State of Maryland, for example, received $1.2 million, or about $6.75 a boater. In Tennessee they received $561,000, or about $2.11 a boater.
Well, if you go out and fill up your 20-gallon gas tank at today's tax, that's about two fillups per year, and I think most of the boaters in Tennessee and Maryland probably fill their 20-gallon tanks up more than that.
My point, Mr. Chairman, is that we are not getting a return on the monies that are collected.
Second, as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund now operates, any amount not appropriated from the boat safety account, which is administered by the Coast Guard, is automatically transferred, as you've heard, to the sport fish account, which is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Here, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Fish and Game directors have an entirely different set of priorities and a freshwater focus for the tax dollars they receive. This includes conducting basic scientific research, propagating more fish, and building boat ramps for small boats.
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But a total of $844 million in motor boat fuel taxes over the past 12 fiscal years, or 60 cents out of every dollar collected, has been deposited into the sport fish account for these purposes. In fact, $176 million has rolled over from the boating account to the fishing account.
Mr. Chairman, I think there is something wrong with this picture. Two-and-a-half times as much money has been spent on making more fish than making sure our waters are safe.
The remainder of the motor boat fuel taxes collected, approximately $216 million, has gone to the Coast Guard. As you know, for the past 2 years the Coast Guard has not requested any appropriation. We believe it is time to eliminate this authorization. Instead of putting these funds to use for recreational boating safety purposes, including funding for the auxiliary, the Coast Guard has put this into their general OE.
The Coast Guard boating safety program has not prospered from the taxes paid by boat owners, and, as I've said before, in terms of manpower and resources, the program is a pale shadow of what it was 10 years ago.
However, if the subcommittee should decide to retain this authorization for the Coast Guard, we strongly recommend that you require the Coast Guard to spend the money on boating safety, per se, and not general operating expenses.
Besides having a strong boating safety program at the State and Federal level, the Nation's boat owners would like to see a more tangible return on the $165 million they pay each year in motor boat fuel taxes.
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We have a number of suggestions that will help build and maintain the infrastructure that supports this $17 billion a year industry.
The Clean Vessel Act, for example, has built nearly 2,000 pump-out and dump stations for boaters in the last 5 years. We think it ought to be reauthorized for an additional 5 years at $5 million a year.
Mr. Chairman, we have also heard from many boaters around the country that they can't use their boats because their waterways are too shallow. We should consider using some of these motor boat fuel taxes now automatically transferred into the sport fish account to help dredge the hundreds of small boat harbors and waterways that may no longer be dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers as it focuses its attention on harbors and waterways of national or commercial importance.
Now, I should say, Mr. Chairman, just yesterday I received from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources a list of 26 projects that they can't implement, dredging projects in the State of Maryland they can't implement because they haven't got the budget for it.
As I think both of you gentlemen know, 2 years ago the Army Corps of Engineers floated a proposal that had 500 small boat harbors on a list where they wouldn't do any dredging.
So we think that this is--if you can't get out of your channel, you can't get out of your marina, you can't use your boat.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We think there ought to be some consideration to using this money either for dredging or for access for non-trailable boats.
Mr. Chairman, on behalf of our 500,000 members, thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Sciulla.
It's my understanding that sea level is rising, so maybe if we're patient enough we won't have to dredge those small harbors.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Carter, I first want to congratulate you for doing an outstanding job as our chief of the boating division for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Mr. CARTER. Thank you.
Mr. CLEMENT. And I also want to congratulate you being chosen or elected to be the national president of the Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
Mr. CARTER. Thank you.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLEMENT. And I might say a personal friend, as well.
Ed, with the total fuel tax up for reauthorization, it appears that you're only asking for a minimum of $35 million. Why are you not asking for more when your testimony indicates a greater need for enforcement and safety?
Mr. CARTER. That's a very good question.
We had the $35 million mark based on a couple of things. The $70 million, of course, was the amount authorized before in this particular committee, and we did not want to try to do anything that would impact the Coast Guard's budget, and for years they've maintained that there was a scoring problem, that if the money came to the States it scored against their budget, and we did not want to exceed the level that we had been authorized in the past.
Our preference would have been to come in and ask you for $70 million for State boating programs. We looked at alternate ways of funding within this particular committee, or maybe in a combination with the Clean Vessel Act to up that, but I certainly don't want to leave the impression that we're satisfied with $35 million.
Mr. CLEMENT. Mr. Carter, in addition to routine patrols, are the States involved in high-profile or special events that demand extra patrol?
Mr. CARTER. On an ever-increasing basis. To use our home State, for example, in addition to our routine patrols and the other programs that we administer and get involved in, we issue about 332 special event permits every year that require everything from a small amount of time to a great amount of time.
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I might mention, I'm not sure that you were there at the Alan Jackson On the Water Concert. It was on Center Hill, which is a lake just outside of Nashville, of course. But we had 5,000 boats that attended that one particular concert, 15,000 people, and some of them were there for 2 1/2 days because they wanted a good spot.
So we increasingly work those, along with the other metropolitan areas that have special events.
Mr. CLEMENT. Well, I sure should have been there to shake a few hands, even though I was not there.
Mr. Sciulla, good to see you here today and testify. It has been a pleasure to work with you in the past, and we're looking forward to working with you in the future.
Instead of allocating a fixed amount from the motor boat fuel tax to go to the boating safety account, would you support using a fixed percentage so that, as the number of boaters increase and more money is collected from boaters, more money would go to support boating safety programs?
Mr. SCIULLA. I think, Mr. Clement, anything is preferable to the cap that we have today. I think the cap should be substantially raised to reflect the amount of money paid into it by recreational boat owners.
Mr. CLEMENT. Mr. Sciulla, H.R. 4, the Truth in Budgeting Act, attempts to remove the boating safety account from the normal budget scoring rules and provide an incentive for all of the funds in the account to be appropriated. Does your organization support this approach?
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Mr. SCIULLA. Yes, sir.
Mr. CLEMENT. Mr. Sciulla, you recommend that something be done for boats over 26 feet. What would you like to see done for these larger boats?
Mr. SCIULLA. We'd like to see dredging, and perhaps mooring fields, shore-side facilities where people could dock up--you know, bathrooms, rest rooms, those types of things.
Mr. CLEMENT. You recommend that funds from the sports fish account be used to dredge small boat harbors and waterways that may no longer be dredged by the Corps of Engineers. Do you have any idea how much money is required to dredge these small boat harbors?
Mr. SCIULLA. I'm not sure if I said that the money should come from the sport fish account, per se, but the point that we're making is that the money that boaters pay--for example, boats over 26 feet constitute, I believe, about 3 percent of the boats out there, but they actually contribute 15 percent of all the gas tax revenues. That's about $25 million a year.
The list that I have from Maryland, for example, of 26 projects that they can't dredge this year, because they haven't got the funding, amounts to $9 million.
I guess my point would be that if we are going to put money into dredging, which we considered an access issue, then it should really go to small boat harbors and small boat waterways to get the projects done, and not simply replace the dollars that are already being used.
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Mr. CLEMENT. Ms. Floyd, this committee has reported H.R. 4, the Truth in Budgeting Act, to help ensure that the amounts in the boat safety account are appropriated. Do you support this approach?
Ms. FLOYD. Well, with my ALAB co-chair hat on, there are about 30 organizations that have decided that each individual organization would have to take a stand. We're not able to organize amongst ourself one position with regards to that.
Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Clement.
I do want to thank all of you for coming here this morning, and especially Colonel Rhoads from the State of Maryland, and I think you might be distant cousins with Charlie sitting behind you there, Colonel. I know you spell your names differently.
Colonel RHOADS. Charlie is in spelling class right now, and I think in a matter of years he'll be able to spell it correctly.
Mr. GILCHREST. Be able to spell his last name. We'll have to change the name of that little store in Centreville then, I guess.
Mr. Sciulla and Ms. Floyd have made some recommendations for funding of the boater safety program, and Mr. Sciulla expanded that to dredging.
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By the way, before I forget, I'd like the list of dredging projects that you talked about this morning that cannot go forward because of a lack of funding.
Mr. SCIULLA. I just happen to have a copy, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. That's good.
Mr. Carter and Colonel Rhoads, would you go along with the recommendations of the change in the funding formula, I guess we could say, recommended by Ms. Floyd, a permanent appropriation by Ms. Floyd, and Mr. Sciulla made some recommendations on the funding formula to more accurately match the amount of fuel tax that's paid with the amount of money that goes back into the boater safety program.
Mr. CARTER. We certainly support a change to receive a more equitable share of the money that comes in off the motor boat fuel tax, the actual percentages, and so forth. I don't have a level that I would suggest to you at this particular time, but I agree wholeheartedly that we're below that level and that it appears, as the number of boats rise and as the fuel tax rises, as well, that we need to increase the amount of money that comes in, either by a percentage amount or by raising the cap to a significant level.
Mr. GILCHREST. Colonel Rhoads?
Colonel RHOADS. Yes. I would subscribe to that, but let me just go back to the dredging list that you've gotten and maybe I can give you a concrete example.
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The waterway improvement funds in the State of Maryland that come from gas tax would be where the $9 million for those projects would come, also.
I am using approximately $7 million of that fund for law enforcement purposes and education beyond that money that's coming through Wallop-Breaux.
If the cap were lifted and if we were to get additional revenues, then the revenues coming from Wallop-Breaux would come to me and that would free up the waterway improvement money, which would go back to allow for these additional dredgings.
The cost of enforcement is going up yearly--the cost of our equipment, the cost of person power--and so the State has had to dip into these waterway improvement funds.
In fact, at the State level now, during this session of the Legislature, there is a long, involved discussion regarding waterway improvement funds and the amount of money that my department siphons from those.
So clearly we are looking for help, and the raising of the cap would help every State with this very same problem.
Mr. GILCHREST. When you say ''raising of the cap,'' can you give us--it's not an unlimited amount. Can you give us some ball park figure that the cap should be raised to?
Mr. CARTER. Currently, considering all the funds available to boating safety as it is currently authorized, it is $90 million. We would like to stay no less than that particular figure. And, if we look at an actual percentage based on the amount coming in to the motor boat fuel tax, it would actually be higher than that. But we would not want to fall below the $90 million level.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Sort of a closer to home question, Colonel. The safe boating course, the boater safety course that is run by the State of Maryland, is there a particular size--and you said that in order for someone to operate a boat they would need a certificate that they took this particular course.
Colonel RHOADS. Yes.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is there a size limit on the type of--is there a type of vessel or a size limit on a vessel that's required to take that course?
Colonel RHOADS. No, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. So if you're going to paddle a canoe----
Colonel RHOADS. No. It has to be--it's a motorized vessel, so row boats, canoes, they don't fall under this.
However, we, in our safety education courses, we think it's important that we preach the importance to anyone that is going to operate any sort of vessel to go through this training.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Colonel RHOADS. It's not required.
Mr. GILCHREST. I have a canoe, and my three kids paddle the canoe, and they haven't been through the course. I think maybe I ought to send them through the course.
Colonel RHOADS. Well, I think it would be a good idea for them and for you, in terms of just your feeling of safety for them. It's a very, very fine course. And at some point in time, sir, I suggest to you that you'll have to get out of that canoe and put an engine on the end of it, and then you'll know everything's going to be all right. And buy some gas.
Mr. GILCHREST. I don't know. I don't need a trailer and I don't need a motor and I don't need a license right now.
Colonel RHOADS. That's correct.
Mr. GILCHREST. It's pretty convenient.
The question I asked the Coast Guard--and I'll ask this, I guess, to Mr. Carter and Colonel Rhoads. The Coast Guard basically does not need a warrant to board a vessel for any reason, which I think, to a large extent, basically, is fine and has worked well, and we probably shouldn't change that.
Do either of you gentlemen need a warrant to board a vessel in the waters of your State? And are there any exceptions to that?
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Colonel RHOADS. Not in the State of Maryland, but we do need probable cause in order to board, so we need to see--we need probable cause.
Mr. CARTER. I'd just mention, along this same line, we, as an association, have put together the reference guide to State boating laws, which lists every State and territory and gives examples of the kinds of things you're talking about here. It's really detailed.
The answer for Tennessee, we do not need a warrant to board, nor do we need probable cause. We can do safety inspections on the water.
There are times, under certain circumstances where house boats are involved and a living quarter is actually involved, that we would need a search warrant to go further than the routine inspection on the outer decks.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see. Would either of you gentlemen say that your relationship with the Coast Guard, as far as boater safety is concerned, is a positive relationship? Are there any areas that need to be improved in that relationship?
Colonel RHOADS. Our relationship with the Coast Guard in the State of Maryland is an excellent relationship, and it is a daily relationship, and it gets better, I believe, almost every day. And it gets better because both of the agencies are trying to ensure that people's lives are taken care of, and we can't do it alone and they can't do it alone. So it's a hand-in-glove operation for us.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Sciulla and Ms. Floyd, you have recommended some changes in the funding for the boater safety program. I think that those are very positive recommendations, some of which we will take into strong consideration as we review the authorization for this program.
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Mr. Sciulla, you have made a rather comprehensive approach to this morning's hearing as far as your recommendations are concerned, and we view all of them as very positive proposals. You really can't go boating if where you have your boat is silted in.
We also need to take into consideration the marine ecosystem and what is necessary to keep that vibrant and alive and productive.
But I think all of these things--the recommendations that you've made as far as the changing formula, a permanent appropriation, understanding the needs of being careful when we mix these dollars, will all be taken into serious consideration by all of us here, and I look forward to working with Mr. Clement on these issues so that when these--when this program is reauthorized, your testimony will be considered and we will continue to consult with you as we move through this process.
Mr. SCIULLA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Are there any other--yes, sir, Colonel Rhoads?
Colonel RHOADS. Mr. Chairman, we would like to offer, because Maryland is, of course, the closest State to the Nation's capital, we'd like to offer to you and your committee, at any time that you'd like to take us up on it, an opportunity to go out on the Chesapeake Bay and actually see the Coast Guard and the Natural Resources Police in their daily pursuit.
And while we're out there, I suspect that we also could figure out how we could take some legal fishery from the bay and prepare it in a Maryland fashion.
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Mr. GILCHREST. Legal fishery from the bay. And are we going to observe this legal fishery or participate in this legal fishery?
Colonel RHOADS. Partake of it. Hopefully it would be our crabs.
Mr. GILCHREST. Well, Mr. Clement was----
Mr. CLEMENT. Mr. Chairman, are we talking about spectator as well as a participant?
Mr. GILCHREST. I think we may need a frying pan, Mr. Clement, when we go on this trip.
Mr. Clement was speaking to me earlier about a trip to maybe Panama or Costa Rica, but I think something like a trip nearer the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, either north or south, where there might be good rock fish observing, would be appropriate.
On a serious note, I think your suggestion is right on the mark. I think if we get out on the boat, not only with DNR from the State of Maryland, possibly with Mr. Carter in Tennessee, and also with the Coast Guard, I think it would serve us well on this committee to watch very brave and courageous men and women that participate in the activities on our Nation's waterways.
Ms. Floyd and Mr. Sciulla, you would be invited when we--let's say that we will set up a time for this particular trip in late spring or early summer, and all of the witnesses will certainly be invited, and we can further carry on this conversation.
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Mr. CARTER. I'd just make a comment that I offered that to Congressman Clement some time ago, and he, in fact, did take me up on that, so we have been out on the water together in one of our patrol boats. I think it was a very positive experience, and we'd love to do that again on any level.
Mr. GILCHREST. Well, I haven't been to Tennessee in quite a few years. I look forward to returning.
Mr. CARTER. The door is open.
Mr. GILCHREST. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your testimony this morning.
This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:30 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]