In late July, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Clean Boating Act of 2008, thus lifting the threat that all boat owners would have had to obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to let rainwater run off the decks of their boats.
The law effectively makes permanent an exemption under which the EPA had relieved watercraft of all types of the need to meet permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act of 1973. The exemption covered discharges of water that were “incidental to the normal operation of a vessel.” These include bilge water, engine-cooling water, and deck runoff, which might be contaminated with anything from bird droppings to a spilled martini.
The need for the law arose when a 2005 U.S. District Court decision in California ruled that the EPA acted outside its authority when it wrote the exemption and further ruled that the EPA must have a permitting process in operation by October of 2008.
In a rare convergence of common cause, members of Congress, urged by lobbies representing several facets of the pleasure-boating industry, moved quickly to vote the bill through the Senate and the House of Representatives and on to the White House. There, no doubt, its potential impact on the operations of the presidential bass boat in Kennebunk, Maine, influenced the positive outcome.