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Boat Makers Say Proposal Could Sink Their Industry

April 17, 1998|Capitol Alert News Service

The state's recreational boating industry is irate about a legislative proposal to ban the use of high-polluting outboard motors on more than 100 lakes and reservoirs throughout California. The impact of the ban, the industry says, would cost it $800 million annually in sales.

The proposal, contained in Assembly Bill 2439, prohibits the use of high-polluting, two-stroke engines on lakes and reservoirs that supply drinking water. Two-stroke engines--which need a mix of oil and gas to run--are typically outboards that propel small fishing boats and personal watercraft such as Jet Skis and dump up to 25% of their fuel into the water unburned.

"If a person rowed a canoe out into the middle of Lake Tahoe and poured four gallons of gas into the lake, you'd want that person punished. That's exactly what's going on here with these Jet Skis that dump a quarter-tank of unburned gas into the water," said Assemblywoman Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey), the bill's author.

The legislation follows similar restrictions passed for Lake Tahoe and nearby lakes and reservoirs. A crackdown on high-polluting engines was also enacted by the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Northern California.

Boating manufacturers and their Capitol lobbyists say Bowen's legislation could sink their industry, which, according to a state study last year, generates $11 billion annually.

"This bill would cost us anywhere between $660 [million] and $800 million, and that's not even taking into account all the restaurants, hotels and supermarkets that boaters stop in when they take their boat out," said Alan Clarke, a lobbyist for the Northern California Marine Assn.

Clarke added that the boating industry has invested more than $500 million over the last several years to help develop a cleaner-burning, lightweight motor that will soon be available, in part to comply with federal rules that will ban the sale of new, high-polluting engines.

Bowen said her bill is very much a work in progress, especially with so much concern from the boating community.

"I've been around the legislative process long enough to know that you start with a Great Dane in hopes that you can get something that looks like a show-cut French poodle," Bowen said.

The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee has scheduled a hearing on AB 2439 on April 28.

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