“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” is the call from the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) as another bill is moving through the state Legislature that will cost boat owners.
SB623 (Kehoe) will prohibit recreational boaters in California from using copper-based anti-fouling paints on vessels’ hulls.
This touchy-feely bill is based on no science or data to support such a ban and will actually cause more harm than good. Marine organisms’ growth on the hulls of boats has a negative effect on both the optimal operation of the vessel and the life of the fiberglass hull. Anti-fouling paint aids in preventing marine growth from attaching to the hull by sloughing off paint layers to a new undercoating. The amount of material is negligible, especially compared to the amount of toxins and pollutants that wash down the storm drains or are released in one sewer line break, which is common.
Growth on a boat’s hull will cause friction while under way, so boats under engine power will burn more fuel than a boat with a clean, smooth hull. Meanwhile, the marine organisms that grow on a hull will penetrate into the hull’s material to cause damage and eventually decrease the life of the material. There are environmental issues with both the disposal of old hull material and the manufacture of new material.
This bill was introduced Monday to the members of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, most of whom are not boaters. The bill would ban on the sale of new recreational boats with anti-fouling paint containing copper as of Jan. 1, 2015; and ban all use or application of these paints as of Jan. 1 2019.
RBOC is opposed to SB623 as amended on April 25, unless the bill is revised to ensure that any ban does not take effect until there are alternatives that are effective, available, and affordable. This bill will directly penalize only the recreational boater, but will not apply to other significant sources of copper including commercial boats and ships, and military vessels. Instead, the bill targets the non-vocal recreational boaters exclusively.
RBOC says that the bill would impose an estimated average new cost of $5,000 every other year on an estimated 200,000 boaters who use anti-fouling paints to protect their boats, for a total mandated expense of at least $1 billion every two years.
Although SB623 states that “it is the intent of the Legislature to promote the use of nonbiocide alternative paints,” banning copper paint would do nothing to meet that goal. It would merely drive boaters to use other biocidal coatings that are effective, available and affordable. These currently available alternatives are also more toxic than copper, and would cause serious problems if their use becomes widespread.
It never ceases to amaze me that some legislators always want to drive up the cost of freedom – and boating is an easy target. Most people have the image of boating as the cigar-smoking millionaire skippering a multimillion-dollar yacht, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most boaters – and more than 70 million Americans go boating annually – are hard-working middle-class citizens with a boat under 28 feet in length.
These are the people who will be priced out of the nation’s favorite recreational activity by bills such as SB623, as the deadlines being proposed do not correspond to any assurance that alternatives to the marine antifouling paints will be available.
While there has been much attention and several studies, rigorous scientific testing and scrutiny have yet to occur and no conclusion can be made. The Department of Pesticide Regulation regulates antifouling paints and is in the process of re-evaluating their registrations, however, SB623 would ignore that process and enact an outright ban.
This will force many recreational boaters to replace their antifouling paints with other coatings that are less effective in preventing the growth of marine organisms on boat hulls, and that also can facilitate the transport of invasive species into new bodies of water, tare costly to purchase and apply, and contain chemicals that would harm the environment.
Meanwhile, boaters in the far southern or northern parts of the state can simply cruise to Mexico or Oregon to have bottom paint applied, as the bill will not affect shipyards outside of California.
I oppose SB623 and I hope that boaters will speak up and contact their representatives in Sacramento.
And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific. Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.” You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.
Until next week, Safe Voyages!