Grassroots Grow Deep In Park Decisionn
Families anchoring up to enjoy San Key's shoal waters is a Miami institution. Local boaters say a ban on anchoring on the sandbars of Biscayne Bay National Park would leave few places to play, this side of the Bahamas. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Hernandez
Boaters who love Florida’s Biscayne Bay mounted a successful grassroots campaign to preserve their access to the water last August, and their victory demonstrates a textbook example of political action where it counts. Faced with an ill-designed plan for restricting access to Biscayne National Park waters to “reduce damage to park resources,” boaters found themselves with limited available information, an unusually short public comment period and, worse, only one package of management changes rather than several options as normally put forth in major regulatory revisions.
That led BoatUS and other local organizations to alert the boating public to the proposal, which would have limited anchoring, prevented rafting-up in many popular locations, and placed restrictions on beaching boats at several sites. While the plan would have added fixed moorings to accommodate recreational boats, it contained little information on where moorings would be placed or how the National Park Service, which admits to being short on funding, would pay the added costs. BoatUS alone sent 20,000 email alerts to south Florida members, many of whom were not aware of the plan or its potential effect on their enjoyment of Biscayne National Park. Unlike the vast majority of national parks, about 90 percent of visitors to Biscayne come by boat.
“Biscayne National Park is a very special place and we certainly understand the need to keep it that way,” said BoatUS Vice President for Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. “The boaters who use the park are the best advocates for conserving these waters for the future.
“Beside the fact that there are already laws on the books that, with better enforcement, would cover some of the problems outlined in the plan, our concern was that the Environmental Assessment offered only one alternative that would impose major changes on how boaters can use the park, and there seemed to be little opportunity for public input, with only a 30-day comment period.” As a result of the grassroots campaign, the park service announced it would withdraw the plan and go back to the drawing board. In an e-mail message to boaters who commented on the plan, Mark Lewis, superintendent of Biscayne National Park, said that features of the plan had not been made “clear enough” and that the public would be “well served by additional public discussion.” Lewis promised to “reach out” to groups who “felt surprised by the current plan” and said the agency would develop an entirely new plan. The change of direction at Biscayne National Park demonstrates, even for boaters who may never visit there, the importance of engaging in public policy issues.
“Regardless of the final outcome at Biscayne, this experience showed, once again, how important it is for boaters to get involved at the grassroots level,” Podlich added. That’s why BoatUS developed a Grassroots Lobbying Tool Kit that provides tips on organizing a group to take on an issue — or better yet, how to get organized before issues surface — as well as letter-writing campaigns, gaining media exposure for your side, and forming coalitions to confront issues.
A printable version of the BoatUS Grassroots Lobbying Tool Kit is available at www.BoatUS.com/gov/toolkit.
In 1960, the standard weight for a boat passenger was 160 pounds.
The United States Coast Guard says, because people weigh more, the rules regarding passenger capacity on a boat have to change. According to Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak, "The average weight per person has increased to 185 pounds." This has prompted the USCG to issue a new rule regarding "gross tonnage" carried by a recreational boat. Statistics show 34 percent of adults over age 20 are overweight. New rules regarding passenger capacity will apply only to commercial vessels (ferries and excursion boats) and not to recreational boats.
Trailer Is Not Included
Tiger Woods is putting his 155-foot yacht up for sale. Privacy carries a crew of 13, costs about $2 million a year to run, and has a price tag of $25 million. Woods bought the boat in 2004 for about $20 million but says he's made improvements, hence the higher asking price. He may be downsizing his lifestyle a little, too; he recently bought a 62-foot boat called Solitude.
In Need Of A Renovation Jolt
Joltin Joe, a 22-foot Chris Craft given to New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio by his fans in 1949, could use its own hitting streak these days. DiMaggio donated the boat to his hometown of Martinez, California, in 1991 and since then the classic craft has been sitting unused and is in need of some major TLC. Speaking of which, after DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe in 1954, he had his wedding reception onboard Joltin Joe. The Diablo Valley Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America has raised almost $25,000, and volunteers from the Martinez Carpenters Local Union 152 have been at work to restore the 62-year-old classic.
Out Out D$%& Quagga!
OUT OUT D*&^ Quagga
Mandatory inspections of boats are now underway in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and California in an effort by Western states to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species. Washington has been inspecting boats at Milepost 18 on I-5, the entry point for boats coming into the state. Lake Tahoe, which is bordered by both California and Nevada, has required inspections since 2008. This year, Nevada is considering a statewide boat inspection program.
Popeye on invasives species patrol at Woodward reservoir.
From the Department of Who'd Have Thought, a lady who has made a living training dogs to sniff out contraband had to come up with a new sniffing gig when the economy went south. Now her dogs are being trained to find invasives on boats about to enter bodies of water in California. "A human might take 15 or 20 minutes thoroughly inspecting the boat, but a dog takes only a minute," Debi DeShon tells KXTV-Channel 10 in Sacramento, California. Her idea has received certification from the state Fish and Game Department and one of DeShon's star inspectors, Popeye, has been spotting invasives for weeks on Woodward Reservoir near Oakdale. Troy Swauger, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says dogs are being used throughout the state to track down invasives. "We've found the use of Detection Dog Teams very useful in its ongoing efforts to keep invasive species out of our state," he notes, adding, "All dogs assigned to a warden are trained to detect quagga mussels, firearms and associated odors. More information at www.musseldogs.info
Last January the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave conditional approval to a private company to use the middle of existing satellite band frequencies to transmit high-speed Internet and cell phone signals. But that could disrupt a wide range of GPS receivers, including those used by boaters, and 33 members of Congress have told FCC to slow down and prove that the service won’t interfere with GPS.
In a letter to the FCC, the Senators ask the agency to better analyze what affects the service could have on GPS signals before allowing the company to go ahead with its plans to build the 40,000 powerful ground stations it needs to provide the service within the U.S. Because the company intends to use frequencies close to existing GPS radio frequencies, the concern is that could lead to loss of critical navigation information in certain areas for a wide array of GPS users.
BoatUS is part of a coalition of associations and companies that also is asking FCC to reconsider. To learn more about the issue you can visit SaveOurGPS.org.
At the Flat Rock Park boat ramp near Philadelphia, a trailer boater launched his boat into the Schuylkill River – along with its trailer. According to a Lower Merion Parks and Recreation spokesman, the trailer came unhitched from the tow vehicle and then fell off the end of the ramp into eight feet of water, despite a sign indicating the drop-off was 25 feet away. The ramp had to be closed until the trailer could be located and recovered. No word on what the boater did while waiting for the trailer to be found.
Meanwhile, a 58-year-old man has been charged with driving while under the influence in Metairie, Louisiana, when he drove up to the drive-thru window at a local Taco Bell and got his 18-foot boat on a trailer stuck in the drive-thru lane. Police were able to dislodge the boat and trailer after disconnecting them from the truck.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Buffalo, New York, has found a new way to utilize eight 20-foot slips in its small boat harbor: Make them into a dozen slips for personal watercraft. This new configuration provides each slip with the ability to have a PWC drive onto the dock.
Captains Mattie & Rodney Suggs of TowBoatUS in Clear lake, Texas.
An April sail on Clear Lake, Texas, didn't go well but it could have been a lot worse were it not for TowBoatUS Captains Mattie and Rodney Suggs. The BoatUS Dispatch Center got a call from a boat in distress on April 21 at 2 p.m. and contacted TowBoatUS Clear Lake. The boat was located near Captain Suggs's homeport.
"Upon reaching the bay, I noticed the disabled sail vessel directly to port and we headed in their direction, constantly looking for heads bobbing in the water," Huston recounts. "Upon arrival, because of high wind and sea conditions, we could not see any persons in the water. The six or so persons onboard started pointing and yelling towards our starboard."
Indeed, a half-mile away, he saw six people in the water without life jackets, got to them quickly and, one by one, pulled each aboard. Upon determining nobody was in medical danger, Huston returned to the disabled sailboat and towed it to safety. This was when he learned the people had been in the water enjoying a swim, unaware the winds were pushing the boat farther away from them. When the skipper decided to start the boat's engine to get closer to the swimmers, a line wrapped around the prop. An attempt was made to anchor but not enough scope was put out so the boat dragged toward shore. That's then the call to TowBoatUS was made. Within just a few minutes, people in the water were rescued and the sailboat was towed to safety.
This episode teaches several important lessons. First, before jumping into the water for even a quick swim, check the current to make sure swimmers are aware of which way they will drift. Second, be sure to tie a fender to a long length of polypropylene line (which floats, keeping it away from the prop). Then, if swimmers drift too far away from the boat, they can reach for the fender and line and pull themselves back to the boat. Third, even when anchoring quickly, or for a lunch stop, determine the depth of the water, multiply that number times five, and try to put out that much anchor line so the anchor stands a good chance of securing itself.
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