Biden Admin Preps 10-Knot Speed Limit For Boats Along the East Coast

P. Gardner Goldsmith | July 12, 2023
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The president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is sounding the alarm about it, the president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy (CSP) is speaking out against it, and so are many, many Americans who find the proposal morally offensive, constitutionally unsound, and a threat to free trade and jobs.



It’s the Department of Commerce’s (under the auspices of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, aka, "NOAA") “regulatory” proposal -- introduced August 1, 2022, and given just two months for civilians to “comment” – that, if imposed, will, for a seven-month period next year, see the federales enforce a 10-knot speed limit on all private sea vehicles longer than 35 feet traveling within 100 miles of the coast between Florida and northern Massachusetts.

Fox News’ Douglas Kennedy recently has brought the issue to light for many more Americans, and he reports:

“The far-reaching regulation would restrict speed to 10 knots or 11.5 miles per hour for all boats over 35 feet — for up to seven months out of the year and up to 100 miles out at sea for most of the East Coast.

Kennedy asked representatives of NOAA to appear on camera for one of his video reports, but received only a textual reply about the NOAA so-called “justification” for its arbitrary threat against boat owners, fishermen, sight-seers, boat manufacturers, and even local businesses catering to boaters.

According to NOAA, the vast, seven-month period of a government-imposed 10-knot speed limit is in the offing to prevent “boats from hitting an endangered right whale" - the same right whales, mind you, that are in danger of being regularly killed thanks to offshore wind energy plants subsidized by your tax dollars and pushed by "green" leftist politicians, but which must now be protected from blue-moon boating accidents by that same government. 

Because, of course, the boaters themselves must love hitting them, and don’t try to handle their own concerns while out on open seas…

Writes Kennedy about this interplay with the officious and fatuous NOAA tax-gourmands:

“In an email to Fox News, an NOAA spokesman pointed out there are only 350 right whales left in the ocean.

‘This rule is designed to reduce the risk of mortalities from vessel strikes and afford the species a greater opportunity to recover,’ the statement read.”

Of course, as “full of an abundance of concern and caution” it appears to be, on the practical, day-to-day, side of the issue, the NOAA argument is as weak as is its so-called “justification” under the Constitution.

Kennedy points out in one of his video reports on the controversy, and a conversation with Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA), there only have been five known “whale strikes” (and the definition of that remains unclear – is it a tap, a fatal blow?) in the past 15 years.

In his written piece, Kennedy notes that the info about the strikes comes… from the oppressive NOAA, itself.

“The statement admitted, however, there have only been five deadly whale strikes by boats between 35 to 65 feet in length over the last 15 years. (Boats over 65 feet are already subject to a speed restriction.)”

NOAA’s observation appears to include data from across the whole world.

And what will their ingenious answer to the near-nil problem likely produce?

Economic tumult, hardship, and loss.

The head of the NMMA is clear about the absurdity and the dark portents for private entrepreneurs – on and off the sea:

“’This would be the greatest regulatory overreach in American maritime law’ — that’s how Frank Hugelmeyer describes a proposal by the Biden administration to limit the speed of all motorboats over 35 feet from Florida to Massachusetts. ‘Not only are they creating a serious safety issue, they are creating a massive negative economic impact.’"

And Jeff Angers, the head of the CSP says:

"It’s stupid. It’s not what government is supposed to do."

On the safety side, the coming mandate lacks any understanding of how boating on the ocean works. For example, Chris Edmonston, the president of the Boat Owners Association of the United States, or “Boat U.S.” has been quite outspoken about the danger in which the NOAA imposition will place mariners.

Writes Kennedy:

“Edmonston said most boats can’t get on a ‘plane’ if they are going under 10 knots. A plane is the speed at which the bow of the boat lowers in order to cut through oncoming waves.

‘The boats are designed to ride on top of the waves,’ he said. ‘This is going to make them wallow in the waves — up and down, side to side, pitching,’ he explained. ‘It’s going to be hard to maintain control. You can take waves over the side.’"

But, just as it was in the old Soviet Union, the bureaucrats in the offices of “Central Authority” seem oblivious to both the dangers and the immorality of their edicts.

Related: First Birds, Now Fish: Conservation Groups Say Offshore Wind Farms Are Killing Whales

Kennedy adds that Edmonston also is trying to sound the alarm for those who might try to operate larger boats under this NOAA imposition:

“He said larger boats are especially at risk going through channels near shore. ‘They can’t maintain steerage [at 10 knots,]’ he added. ‘If you’re going that speed you’re going to [run] aground.’"

Pilot boat captain Trey Thompson offers more, from his important niche in the multi-faceted boating, fishing, and sea-faring industry:

“His job is to help commercial vessels navigate from 20 miles out at sea to Savannah’s inland shipping channels. In the past year, Thompson purchased two new 64-feet pilot boats.

‘This boat we're standing on is purpose-built for this job’ he explained. ‘[It was] just delivered eight months ago. I have a second one under construction now.’”

What will the NOAA imposition do to that?

“He said neither can operate safely at 10 knots: ‘[That’s] $13 million worth of pilot boats that will be unusable.’"

And what does the NOAA imposition portend for others in the multitude of jobs along the East Coast?

“Thompson also predicts the rule will cripple port traffic.

‘The port will be closed any day it’s rough [or] windy. [And] not just this port. All the ports on the East Coast,’ he said.

He pointed out there has never been a confirmed whale strike in a federal channel. ‘This is the government just getting involved where they don't need to be,’ he said.”

And those are just a few of the dark practical dimensions, a few of those who will be harmed.

The ocean-connected market is so vast, a single person or a single office would be unable to grasp its scale and nuances. But in every state targeted, at every town, along every mile of coastline, real people are in the NOAA crosshairs.

"’This overreach is going to basically all but halt fishing off the East Coast of the United States,’ said Glenn Hughes, the president of the American Sportfishing Association. ‘It will just keep people from fishing.’

He points out there are 9 million anglers who fish the Eastern coastline.

‘Instead of getting to a [fishing] destination in an hour, you're talking about something that's going to take three to four hours both ways,’ he said.

A day trip, he added, would become ‘impossible.’

‘If it takes that long, they're just not going to go,’ he said. ‘If they don't go, then they don't buy product. They don't buy boats. They don't buy fuel. They don't buy anything that goes with that. And it hurts the economy.’"

Kennedy dug into more of the threats the NOAA scheme will pose to coastal entrepreneurs, and spoke with a third-generation boat-builder on the Jersey Shore, and also observed that hotels, restaurants, and fuel-sellers are among the many who will be threatened by this arbitrary imposition.

But there are two other matters to consider. First, it is imperative that any American learning about this potential harm levied against the east coast also understand that the US Constitution does not allow it. The practical dangers of the command-and-control bureaucracy are clear, but that bureaucratic imposition only comes to us because the feds don’t respect their rules under the Constitution.

The way to protect the whales and to allow for human markets to flourish is to get all forms of political institutions out of the oceans and allow for private property claims. Those claims would see incentives for safety much like what these potential victims of NOAA practice today, while, at the same time, also allowing private property incentives to protect the whales.

Just as private property incentives have helped protect and expand the populations of elephants in numerous African nations, so, too, can people’s support for other living things be shown if we respect our neighbors and allow for property and prices to be attached to what they value.

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