Voluntary Program Targets Coastal Boating Pollution

July 4, 2007

A voluntary program designed to reduce nonpoint (diffuse) sources of coastal water pollution caused by boating has been slowly expanding since the late 1990s, spurred by NOAA, EPA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and numerous state agencies. However, reviews of the program to determine its effectiveness appear to be limited, at best.

Some form of the "Clean Marina" program now exists, or is forming, in 23 states with ocean or Great Lakes frontage, as well as the Virgin Islands. Hundreds of marinas have been approved for the program or have pledged to quickly take the steps needed for approval (includes links to each state's programs and participating marinas).

The actions recommended to help reduce pollutants address issues such as fueling, solid waste, fish waste, stormwater runoff, recycling, and boat operations, cleaning, and storage.

By committing to comply with the program's requirements, marinas can get money and assistance from federal and state programs - for program implementation, staff support, outreach, demonstration projects, awards, etc. - and can tout their "green" approach.

However, there has been no nationwide assessment of the program, says NOAA spokesman Daniel Parry, 301-734-1092. Management and oversight of the program in each state is variable. It may be useful to investigate the performance of the voluntary program to determine if the tax money is being well spent. Some of the questions to ask, at the level of the full program, the role of each federal and state agency involved, and the role of individual marinas, include:

  • How much money has been spent?
  • Has there been an independent audit of exactly where the money has gone?
  • Is there any monitoring to see if there has been any reduction in the targeted pollutants?
  • What percentage of marinas is responding?
  • Are participating marinas doing anything differently than they did before they got the money, or are they being rewarded for efforts already in place?
  • How are individual boaters responding to the program?
  • Do "green" claims by the individual marinas make any difference in responses to the program?
  • How much of the total nonpoint pollution load does this program address?
  • How does this program mesh with other efforts to reduce nonpoint pollution (e.g., redundancies, missing targets, complementary targets, etc.)
  • Would it be useful to expand this program to freshwater marinas (as is already being done in this program on a very limited basis)?

For more information on the program, see EPA's "Clean Marina" information here and here, as well as a June 21, 2007, NOAA press release.