Lochner Law Firm, P.C.

About the Clean Boating Act

The Clean Boating Act is approaching Phase 1 implementation all over the United States. As a recreational boater, or marina, there are some significant changes that will take place. Over the past few months, individuals, ranging from Boat U.S. Foundation to the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, have organized outreach and iformational meetings and literature to help everyone understand what is the Clean Boating Act.

Related articles:
Clean Boating Act
Clean Water Act
Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 43 / Friday, March 4, 2011 / Proposed Rules

Table of Contents


Congress passed the Clean Boating Act (CBA) in 2008 as an amendment to the Clean Water Act. This page is intended to answer many questions the recreational boater may have concerning the CBA, EPA's responsibilities under the CBA, and the development of a new regulation that affects recreational boaters.

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What is the Clean Boating Act?

The CBA is an amendment of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CBA requires EPA to identify discharges incidental to the normal operation of recreational vessels for which management practices are reasonable and practicable to develop. These management practices can help to limit the amount of pollution discharged into our nation's waters.

Why is EPA regulating recreational boaters?

The CBA requires nationally applicable, reasonable measures to mitigate adverse impacts of recreational vessel discharges without using a CWA permit.

What is a recreational vessel

A recreational vessel is a vessel that is manufactured or used primarily for pleasure and is not for commercial use or the transport of paying passengers. For example, canoes, kayaks, in/outboard motor boats, personal watercraft, yachts and sailboats may all be considered recreational vessels.

What are the management practices?

Management practices include methods, techniques, or tools which, when used correctly, can mitigate the adverse environmental impact of discharges from recreational vessels into our waters. Recreational boaters are responsible for applying the appropriate management practices for each type of discharge their vessel creates.

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What does the CBA regulate?

The CBA regulates discharges incidental to the normal operation of recreational vessels.

What is the jurisdiction of the CBA?

The CBA applies to recreational vessels in all "waters of the United States," as defined in the CWA, and waters of the contiguous zone which extend to 12 miles from shore. This means the CBA applies to recreational vessels using internal waters, coastal waters, and waters out to 12 nautical miles from shore.

Who is affected by the CBA?

The CBA affects owners or operators of recreational vessels, from the smallest kayak to the largest yacht. Each such vessel owner/operator may be responsible for implementing the management practice or practices associated with each type of discharge that their vessel creates.

Why does this action affect only discharges from recreational vessels and not from other types of watercraft?

Vessel discharges not covered by the CBA are regulated through other rules and regulations, including CWA permits, such as the General Permit. For more information, please visit History of the Clean Boating Act.

What enforces the CBA?

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has enforcement authority under the CBA. In addition, states may choose to enforce the CBA through appropriate state agencies.

Does the CBA override existing state or local regulations?

While the CBA will establish a nationally-applicable set of management practices, state and local governments may establish practices that are broader in scope and/or more stringent than those established under the CBA.Vessel owners must comply with the most stringent laws.

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Will EPA charge boaters a fee under the CBA?

EPA will not charge or collect any fees from boaters under the CBA.

How much will complying with this new regulation cost me?

Complliance costs will vary depending on vessel type, usage patterns, maintenance practices and the types of vessel discharge produced. EPA will complete an economic analysis which estimates the incremental financial burden to recreational vessel owners for compliance with the management practices. Please note that recreational vessel owners will not be required to comply with this proposed regulation, until after the USCG has finalized its regulations to implement the EPA regulations.

Will there be any resources available to help me bring my boat into compliance?

At this time, there are no compliance resources available. However, EPA plans a variety of outreach projects to educate recreational boaters about their responsibilities under the CBA to help ensure compliance.

What are the penalties for breaking these laws?

Penalties will be determined under existing CWA penalty provisions. More information will be available when the USCG (the agency responsible for enforcing the CBA) finalizes implementing rules.

Is EPA planning to impound boats?

EPA does not impound boats. The USCG is the enforcement agency. Additionally, state agencies can, at their discretion, enforce these practices.

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Implementation Timeline

When will the CBA affect the recreational boater?

The CBA has three phases of implementation:

Phase 1: EPA will determine the discharges incidental to the normal operation of recreational vessels for which it is "reasonable and practicable" to develop management practices and develop these practices.

Phase 2: EPA will enact regulations establishing performance standards for each management practice.

Phase 3: USCG will enact regulations that specify the design, construction, installation or use of management practices to meet EPA's performance standards.

EPA anticipates proposing the Phase 1 regulation in 2011. While it is difficult to project implementation timelines, the EPA anticipates that the Phase 2 regulations will take 18-24 months to complete, following finalization of Phase 1. After finalization of Phase 2 the USCG will develop the Phase 3 regulation.

How does the CBA affect the recreational boater?

After all phases of implementation are complete, recreational boaters will be required to carry out the management practices.

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Discharge Pollutants and Management Practices

What kinds of management practices are recreational boaters supposed to use?

EPA is considering developing management practices for several broad categories of vessel discharges (e.g., release of antifouling and corrosion control agents, transport of aquatic nuisance species, bilgewater, cleaning and maintenance related discharges, fishing waste, and graywater). A list of the management practices will be made available when EPA publishes the proposed rule.

Why is EPA regulating recreational vessels when there are other more potentially significant sources of pollution?

Research has shown that recreational vessels can play a role in the transportation of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) between bodies of water, which represent a very serious disruption in aquatic environments. In addition, the discharges from vessels sometimes contain environmentally harmful concentrations of pollutants.

Does the CBA regulate sewage discharges from vessels?

No. The CBA states that EPA's management practices for recreational vessels will not apply to sewage. Vessel sewage is currently regulated under the Clean Water Act.

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Editors Note: This article first appeared on the EPA Website on March 1, 2011.

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