From Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin:
I am writing to address a Maryland State Senator’s post regarding the Maryland Department of Natural Resources proposal to increase boating related fees.
The State needs $41 million annually to meet our boating needs including urgent dredging and facility maintenance. Last year the Department was only able to fund 11 percent of project requests. (The referenced $1.09 million borrowed from the Waterway Improvement Fund during Fiscal Year 2012 was replaced with general obligation bonds, leaving the fund whole.)
We appreciate boater concerns about paying additional registration fees; this is why we propose phasing-in these changes over four years (two biennial registrations). The proposed fee scale also places bigger, typically more expensive boats — which require deeper channels — at the higher end of the scale.
Waterfront destinations and water-dependent businesses, restaurants and tourist attractions will be severely impacted if boating access is limited because the State can no longer dredge its channels and maintain its facilities. Investments in these our boating infrastructure benefits these businesses and our local and state economies.
Perhaps the question should be whether Maryland boaters can afford not to pay more, when allowing our public boating channels to fill in will compromise public access and safety, and result in incomparable damage to the economies of our extensive waterfront communities.
Finally, we take matters regarding stewardship of public funds very, very seriously. The Senator failed to mention that we immediately referred the employee credit card case for criminal investigation, and that former employee is now being prosecuted. Our commitment to fiscal responsibility is further evidenced by the trend of our last two audits; the findings decreased by more than half, from 13 to 5; two-thirds of the period covered by the earlier audit was managed by the previous Administration.
John R. Griffin
Maryland Department of Natural Resources