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DNR Reduces Cost of Boat Registrations
After meeting with and listening to the concerns of stakeholders, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will propose amendments to House Bill 1307 to substantially reduce the proposed cost of registering a boat in Maryland. DNR introduced the proposed legislation to address the State’s critical boating infrastructure needs.
“We hope these proposed fee reductions strike a better balance among the competing factors of affordability to boaters, recession impacts on boat sales and the growing unmet needs to maintain our boating assets,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin, “With some of the most magnificent waterways in the country, we must work together to keep boating safe and enjoyable.”
“We appreciate the Department taking into consideration the concerns of the Maryland Boating Industry by significantly reducing the proposed boat registration costs to a level that is acceptable to our boat dealers and marinas,” said Susan Zellers, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland.
Since 1965, the State’s 5 percent excise tax on vessels has served as the major source of funding for the Waterway Improvement Fund, the State’s program for financing projects and activities that promote, develop and maintain Maryland’s waterways for the boating public. DNR needs $41 million annually to maintain boating services and operations. This includes dredging and maintaining 265 channels, more than 400 public boating facilities, 3,600 buoys and marine police operations. DNR is also responsible for removing hazardous abandoned boats and debris, funding marine sewage pumpout stations, local fire and rescue boats and providing icebreaking services for boaters when necessary.
Due to the dramatic decrease in boat sales, fund revenues have declined by 50 percent to only $15 million, leaving Maryland unable to fund these critical projects. The agency was only able to fund 11 percent of State and local grant requests for FY 2012.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently indicated that they can no longer provide the estimated $6 million in annual federal funds needed to maintain more than 60 shallow water boating channels used by recreational boaters, commercial watermen and other marine-related businesses.
“This legislation is critical to maintaining channels and boat access sites throughout Maryland,” said Bob Willis, Mayor and owner of the Sailing Emporium Marina in Rock Hall. “Less channel dredging means less income and jobs for marinas, boatyards and other waterfront businesses.”
Because the cost of registering a boat in Maryland has not been increased since 1983, DNR has been working with boaters, the marine industry and legislators to address these funding needs. In response to public input, DNR will propose to substantially reduce the amount of the proposed cost structure, which is based on the size of the boat.
Boat registration currently costs $24 every two years. Under the proposed changes, boats under 16 feet would cost $25 every two years to register in Maryland. Boats between 16 to less than 21 feet would cost $50 every two years, 21 to less than 32 feet would cost $75 every two years, 32 to less than 45 feet would cost $100 every two years, 45 to 65 feet would cost $200 every two years and boats more than 65 feet would cost $300 every two years. The bill also includes a voluntary non-motorized decal for boats such as kayaks and canoes for $12 every two years. The proposal eliminates the second tier of phased-in registration increases, meaning the new costs would start in 2013. In addition, amendments will increase the one-time boat title price to $35 as well as some other costs to boat dealer.
“These revenues are critical to providing local communities with safe and reliable access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Bob Whitcomb, President of the Anne Arundel County Waterway Restoration Alliance. “As boaters we support fees that are needed to maintain our channels.”
For a map highlighting boating projects across the State visit www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/access_stats.html
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