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Another State Boat Tax For More Ocean Inlet Dredging
Pamlico Boaters To Pay, But Dredging Benefit In Question
June 23, 2015

ot a boat that is 24 feet or longer? It could soon cost you more.

A bill in the NC Senate, SB 160 lays out a new requirement for a ‘Coastal Waterways User Identification Number’ that boat owners would have to display under their registration number.

This new number – to operate your boat in coastal waters – also means a new tax. The cost would be on a sliding scale of $72 for a 24 foot boat up to more than $1200 for a 100 foot boat. A 40-foot boat’s Coastal Waterways User Identification Number would be about $200. Per year.

The bill has moved up the chain in the Senate and is now part of the legislature’s appropriations bill, aka HB 97.

Boat US, in an alert to its members, says this would give NC the highest state imposed fees on recreational boats in the US

Where does the money go?

Like the controversial spike in statewide boat registration fees 2 years ago, these new fees are earmarked to fund for dredging of certain inlets on the NC coast. (That fund, set up in 2013 also, in a compromise with non-coastal boat owners, puts aside up to half a million a year toward controlling weeds on inland lakes.)

It was noted two years ago that none of that dredging money from the registration fees could be used on any marine improvements in Pamlico County. That law explicitly spelled out the inlets to be dredged. Pamlico County was not on that list.

It appears that would be the case again if this Coastal Waterway User ID Number scenario passes in the state House: though thousands of Oriental and Pamlico County boat owners would have to pay for that second line of numbers on their boat, it’s unlikely a cent would bounce back here to dredge filled-in channels.

TownDock.net sought more clarity on the measure – for instance, why 2 years in to the higher boat registration fees was it necessary to charge boaters another tax.

On Friday TownDock called the offices of all three sponsors – Senators Harry Brown of Jacksonville, Michael Lee of Wilmington and Bill Cook who represents the district including Hyde, Dare and Beaufort counties. All three senators have inlets in their districts that would be dredged with the money raised from this new tax on boat owners elsewhere.

Senator Cook’s office said he would only take questions via email. TownDock emailed its questions to all three. As of Tuesday, only Senator Lee’s office had responded, via Legislative Assistant, Robert Andrews. Here are his responses to the questions:

1. How much money would the Coastal Waterway Usage ID # program raise annually?
a. Senator Lee along with his colleagues estimate that the fee would generate between $1m and $2m per year.

2. Two years ago the boat registration fee was raised. The reason stated was to fund a dredging program. Why is this new fee needed to go to that same program?
a. Yes the fee was raised two years ago. It was raised on all boats statewide and the funds did go to both shallow draft inlets and inland lakes (primarily to combat aquatic vegetation such as Hydrilla).

3. Would the money from this new fee be earmarked only for dredging of ocean inlets and harbors near those inlets?
a. The new fee would go to towards dredging of coastal inlets.

4. Would any Pamlico County waterway qualify for these dredging funds?
a. The inlets and waterways are defined in statute and are focused primarily on the AICWW, inlets and other navigational channels. Pamlico would be welcome to apply to DENR to check on eligiblility (DENR manages the fund) although the county would have to generate the 1:1 match.

5. Will this new fee apply to every boat 24 feet and longer in NC, or would it apply only to those that are used on NC’s coastal waterway?
a. It would apply only to boats >24’ that are used in coastal waters.

6. How is the “coastal waterway” defined? What is considered the westernmost part of NC’s Coastal Waterway?
a. There is a demarcation line on maps that show where jurisdiction changes from DIV of Marine Fisheries (Coastal Waters) to Wildlife Resources Commission (Inland Waters).

7. Would this apply to boats longer than 24 feet who owners are visiting NC for a few months?
a. Only if they are engaged in any type of fishing that requires a non-resident fishing license.

8. Would this fee be charged to commercial fishing boats, ships and trawlers if they are 24 feet or longer?
a. Yes.

The measure has passed up through committees in the NC Senate and is now embedded in HB 97, which lays out the revenue sources for the state budget. That budget is still being worked on.

Boat US is encouraging boat owners across the state to contact their state representatives.

Posted Tuesday June 23, 2015 by Melinda Penkava

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