U.S. Senators Try Again to Kill Vessel Discharge Regs

Alaska fishermen have three years before the EPA is supposed to begin regulating deck wash, bilge water and other liquids discharged from small vessels. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week introduced a bill to permanently block the regulation for commercial vessels under 79 feet. Senate co-sponsors include Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

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The threat of the looming discharge regulation frustrates owners of commercial boats from Alaska to Florida. Robert Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators, let his exasperation show in testimony at a recent U.S. Senate hearing.

“How, how do I — I can’t even give you an answer to that question on how much rain runs off my deck on a particular day. It’s rainwater that would’ve hit the water if it hadn’t hit my boat, so what is the purpose?” fumed Zales, who runs a fishing charter business in Panama City.

Murkowski and Boxer nearly won a permanent exemption for small boats last year. But owners of bigger vessels objected, saying the exemption should cover their ballast water discharge, too. Boxer says ballast water poses more danger to marine ecosystems because it can carry invasive species from port to port.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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