Juneau Empire: Bill passed to extend permit moratorium for smaller vessels

A two-year moratorium on permit requirements for certain smaller vessels has been extended for an additional three years.

The moratorium applies to permits for discharges for commercial and charter fishing vessels less than 79 feet long. This exempts these smaller vessels from having to apply permits otherwise required by the Clean Water Act. Recreational vessels were exempted two years ago.

The bill to extend this moratorium until Dec. 17, 2013 was signed by President Barack Obama late Friday. It was sponsored by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, and Barbara Boxer, D-California.

The original bipartisan legislation was introduced by Murkowski in the 110th Congress. It was enacted for the Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard to study the impacts of discharges incidental to the normal operations of such vessels.

Murkowski's office said the study would help determine whether discharges from normal operations should be regulated by the EPA through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits, and if so, which ones. Discharges that could be regulated may include bilge water, grey water and deck runoff.

Her office said the extension was sought because the study has not been completed.

"I am pleased that the president signed into law this bill prior to the July 31 expiration of the earlier moratorium," Murkowski said. "In Alaska, the 9,700 vessels that make up the commercial and charter fishing fleets would have been adversely affected if the moratorium had expired."

Her office said if they had been implemented, permit requirements would have affected all commercial fishing vessels, charter vessels and other commercial boats, such as tugs, barges and passenger crafts.

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Source: By Jonathan Glass. Originally published August 04, 2010