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Clean Marina Program

In 1992, the Federal government passed the Clean Vessel Act. This Act established a five-year recreational boater sewage disposal program and amended the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act allowing the Secretary of Interior to issue grants to coastal and inland states for pumpout stations and waste reception facilities to dispose of recreational boater sewage. The Act further requires each coastal state to develop and submit a plan for the construction and/or renovation of pumpout stations and waste reception facilities within their coastal zones. During its implementation of and public education about this Act throughout Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded that its 1,800 marinas and boatyards and over 1 million boaters were confused about the Act's limited requirements. With over 1,200 miles of coastline and over 4,300 square miles of water, DEP determined that the point sources of pollution from the boating industry were much broader than wastewater. They decided to take this opportunity and create a comprehensive, multimedia, single sector pollution prevention education program for the marine industry throughout Florida.

What grew out of this effort is now the Clean Marina Program, a self-review and recognition program for marinas, boatyards, and boaters, complete with training, personalized environmental best management practices (BMPs) checklists, and free promotion. The program initially included small, $1,500 grants for P2 projects and continues to educate marinas, boatyards, and boat owners about the environmental impacts of their industry and leisure activities. Additionally, the DEP is working on two new incentives for members who continue to participate in the program and increase the number of implemented BMPs. These include: granting extended (5 to 25 year) submerged land leases to participating marinas that will increase their ability to borrow money from lending institutions and negotiating lower rates with the insurance industry for member facilities based upon the increased safety measures included in the review checklist. The Clean Marina Program protects the environment as well as gives qualifying marinas an economic competitive advantage.

The Clean Marina Program provides a checklist of up to 125 pollution prevention action items tailored to each facility reviewed. Each item is assigned a certain weight depending on its level of commitment. The facility managers must attend a workshop, conduct a self-review, and then receive a verification review by the Partnership Team. Once the facility meets 100% of the compliance items and at least 60% of the additional voluntary items on the checklist, the facility is designated a "Clean Marina." After designation, each member receives a plaque, decals, flags for their docks, and a disk with the program logo for their use on any literature and promotion in the local media. Annual renewals are granted to each facility that confirms that they continue to meet program criteria, and random follow-up inspections are conducted each year thereafter. All 6 districts of the state have a Clean Marina Coordinator who is responsible for managing, assisting, and periodically reviewing participating facilities at a decentralized level. Incidentally, incorporating the responsibilities of a Clean Marina Coordinator into the job descriptions of the already-busy P2 Coordinators is one of the incentives promoting program success. All designated facilities are mailed a postcard in subsequent years to ensure their ongoing participation. To date, there has been a 100% renewal rate. While the bulk of the program costs are absorbed by the various agency program budgets, the program has been funded in part by grants from the EPA, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Major partners for the project include the Clean Boating Partnership, which is a group consisting of the following organizations: the Florida Sea Grant Program, the Marine Industries Association of Florida and its 12 local associations, the Coast Guard, and the International Marine Institute. NOAA is also a major resource for information and funding. DEP credits its non-agency partners and willing applicants as the most important ingredients for success.

Positive Results

Presently, aside from counting the number of participating facilities and boaters and cataloging their actions (e.g., BMPs) as outlined in their audit checklists, no specific pollution prevention has been tracked. Project managers have surmised that the program has spurred the implementation of about 20% more best management practices than would have otherwise been implemented, but this is anecdotal information. As of the date of this publication, One hundred nine (109) marinas and 21 boatyards have been designated as Clean Marinas or Clean Boatyards, and there are 150 additional facilities working toward designation. Due in large part to its success, an additional outgrowth of the Clean Marina Program is the creation of the Clean Boaters Campaign. With over 1 million registered vessels in the state of Florida, this has the potential to have a huge impact on water quality. To date, there are only about 3,500 Clean Boaters, but the numbers are increasing. Boaters learn about the program primarily through the marinas, boatyards, and county tax collector's office when they register their boats. They are vying for free bilge socks, stickers, and bragging rights that go along with becoming a Clean Boater.

Key Elements, Suggestions, and Challenges

The Clean Marina program manager believes that the creation and active participation of an industry group, the Clean Boating Partnership, as well as the use of consumer education and recognition of participating facilities has been so successful that these types of strategies should be considered in other programs. In fact, this program has become so recognizable and successful that facilities are no longer asking, "Why should I join," but "When can I join?"

The program manager suggests measuring the environmental impacts at participating facilities with respect to local environmental indicators. This is challenging, but DEP is already thinking about a strategy for tracking these types of improvements. Initially, it was difficult communicating with and getting buy-in from the target audience because the program was mistaken for an enforcement tool. Once the boating industry trusted the intent of the DEP, the program became successful. Some incentives that facilitated this trust were access to grants, free valuable technical tools such as assistance, and public recognition.

More Information

Florida Department of Environmental Protection - Clean Marina Program Exit EPA Disclaimer

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