References to federal laws and regulations are made throughout the classroom and are generally linked to the referenced material. This section provides an overview of those federal laws and regulations that are pertinent to marina owners and operators. It is not comprehensive, but should be used as a starting point while moving through the classroom or as a review at the end of the classroom.

Overview of Select Federal Laws and Regulations

Key Federal Agencies

Overview of Select Federal Laws and Regulations

Archaeological Resources Protection Act

The purpose of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act is to secure, for the present and future benefit of the American people, the protection of archaeological resources and sites which are on public lands and Indian lands, and to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities, the professional archaeological community, and private individuals having collections of archaeological resources and data which were obtained before the date of the enactment of this Act. The Act requires that marina developers apply for a permit to remove any archaeological resource(s) located on public lands where a marina is to be developed or expanded.

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970)) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Some examples of regulated air pollutants include: volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals.

The Clean Air Act has been amended several times, most recently in 1990 to include several new requirements that apply directly to smaller sources of air pollution, often small businesses. Businesses are required to get permits for sources/activities that discharge pollutants to the air. Permits are required to install (“permit to install”) and to operate (“permit to operate”) sources of air pollution. A small business, such as a marina, would be regulated under the Clean Air Act and may need to get a permit if it is operating a unit that discharges air pollutants.

Clean Boating Act of 2008

The Clean Boating Act of 2008 was signed into law on July 29, 2008 (P.L. No. 110-288).

This law provides that recreational vessels shall not be subject to the requirement to obtain an NPDES permit to authorize discharges incidental to their normal operation. It instead directs the EPA to evaluate recreational vessel discharges, develop management practices for appropriate discharges, and promulgate performance standards for those management practices. It then directs the Coast Guard to promulgate regulations for the use of the management practices developed by the EPA and requires recreational boater compliance with such practices.

Clean Vessel Act (CVA)

The purpose of the Clean Vessel Act of 1992 is to maintain and improve the water quality in boating waters throughout the United States. The goal of the Act was to evaluate existing conditions for sewage disposal from recreational boats and to implement improvements where needed. Under the Clean Vessel Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is authorized to make grants to coastal states for the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pump-out and dump stations for the disposal of sewage discharged by recreational boaters. Contact your state for details on financial assistance.

Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA)

The Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) provide the impetus for many Clean Marina programs. Section 6217 of the Amendments requires that nonpoint source pollution from marinas be contained. The Clean Marina Program promotes voluntary adoption of best management practices to minimize the effect of marinas on surrounding land and water.

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Laws and Regulations

In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) was signed into law. Title III of SARA is also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA requires companies to report information about the chemicals they have on their property. Reporting and other requirements of EPCRA for businesses are covered under these major sections:

  1. Community Right-to-Know Reporting Requirements (Sections 311-312)
  2. Emergency Release Notification (Section 304)
  3. Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Reporting (Section 313)

Endangered Species Act

The Federal Endangered Species Act provides for the conservation of species that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range. Under this act, a biological assessment is required to determine if endangered species are present before construction activities may commence.

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act)

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) addresses many facets of water quality protection. It provides the authority for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program for point sources of pollution. The act prohibits the discharge of oil or hazardous substances into U.S. navigable waters. It also prohibits the use of chemical agents like soap, detergents, surfactants, or emulsifying agents to disperse fuel, oil, or other chemicals without permissions from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Furthermore, the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of raw sewage within U.S. waters and requires that all recreational boats with installed toilets have an operable marine sanitation device on board.

Discharge of Oil Prohibited

U.S. EPA’s Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation was published in the Federal Register on December 11, 1973 and was promulgated under Section 311(j)(1)(C) of the Clean Water Act. It was amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

All boats 26 feet in length or over are required to display a placard that is at least 5 inches x 8 inches, made of durable material, and fixed in a conspicuous place, such as in the machinery spaces or at the bilge pump control station. The placard must read:

  • The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or the waters of the contiguous zone if such discharge causes a film or sheen upon, or discoloration of, the surface of the water, or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000.
  • The Clean Water Act requires that the U.S. Coast Guard be notified any time a spill produces a sheen of the water. Failure to report a spill may result in civil penalties. Report spills to (800) 424-8802.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Perhaps the most notable goal of the NPDES was the elimination of discharge of pollutants into navigable waters by 1985. This goal was not realized, but it remains a principle for establishing permit requirements. The act had an interim goal to achieve “water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water” by July 1, 1983. This is more commonly known as the “fishable, swimmable” goal. Discharges incidental to the normal operation of recreational vessels are exempt from obtaining a NPDES permit. These discharges include graywater, bilge water, cooling water, weather deck runoff, oil water separator effluent, or effluent from properly functioning marine engines.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) requires a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review of potential effects on fish and wildlife from proposed water resource development projects. The FWCA requires that fish and wildlife resources receive consideration equal to other parts of the project. In addition, it also requires federal agencies that construct, license or permit water resource development projects to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State fish and wildlife agency regarding the impacts on fish and wildlife resources and measures to mitigate these impacts.

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement addresses critical environmental health issues in the Great Lakes region and is a model of binational cooperation to protect water quality. The Agreement was initially signed in 1972 and was last updated in 1987. On Sept. 7, 2012, Canada and the United States amended the Agreement. The updated Agreement facilitates United States and Canadian action on threats to Great Lakes water quality and includes measures to prevent ecological harm. New provisions address the nearshore environment, aquatic invasive species, habitat degradation, and the effects of climate change. It also supports continued work on existing threats to people’s health and the environment in the Great Lakes basin such as harmful algae, toxic chemicals, and discharges from vessels. 

Lacey Act

U.S. law making it illegal to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife, or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold:

  1. In violation of U.S. or Indian law, or
  2. In interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law.

The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and those protected by State law. Commercial guiding and outfitting are considered to be a sale under the provisions of the Act.

In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to include a wider variety of prohibited plants and plant products, including made illegally logged woods, for import. When the Lacey Act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law protecting wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species.

Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act (MPPRCA)

The Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act (MPPRCA) is the U.S. law that implements an international pollution prevention treaty known as MARPOL. The MPPRCA of 1987 (Title II of Public Law 100-220) restricts the overboard discharge of garbage. Its primary emphasis is on plastics—it is illegal to dispose of plastic materials into the water anywhere. Within U.S. lakes, rivers, and bays, it is illegal to dump plastic, paper, rags, glass, metal, crockery, dunnage (lining and packing material, nets, lines, etc.), and food. All boats over 40 feet must also have a written waste management plan on board.

Under the national law, ports and terminals, including recreational marinas, must have adequate and convenient “reception facilities” for their regular customers. That is, marinas must be capable of receiving garbage from vessels that normally do business with them (including transients).

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

In accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (29 USC Sec. 657) operators must have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all products used at the facility (including diesel and gas). A variety of OSHA fire protection and prevention regulations may apply to marinas, see: Safety and Health Regulations for Construction – Fire Protection and Prevention (OSHA).

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA)

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) was written in direct response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The law primarily addresses commercial oil shipping (e.g., tankers must be double-hulled, and captains may lose their licenses for operating a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol). However, some of the requirements are applicable to recreational boating. Most notably, the responsible party for any boat or facility that discharges oil is liable for the removal costs of the oil and any damages to environmental quality; real or personal property; subsistence uses; revenues, profits, and earning capacity; and public services like the cost of providing increased or additional public services. The financial liability for all non-tank vessels is $600 per gross ton, or $500,000, whichever is greater. In addition, substantial civil penalties may be imposed for failing to report a spill, for discharging oil, for failure to remove oil, failure to comply with regulations, and gross negligence.

Organotin Antifoulant Paint Control Act (OAPC) of 1988

The Organotin Antifoulant Paint Control Act restricts the use of organotin antifouling paints, including tributyl tin-based paints. Tributyl tin (TBT) paints may be used only on aluminum-hulled vessels, on boats larger than 82 feet (25 meters), and on outboard motors and lower drive units. Any boatyard operator wishing to apply TBT paints must obtain a limited commercial license (to be called a commercial applicator license after July 1, 2004) from the responsible state agency. It is illegal for anybody without a license to distribute, sell, use, or possess antifoulants containing tributyl tin. The only exception is for private use of spray cans that are 16 ounces or less and which do not exceed the release rate of less than or equal to 5.0 micrograms per square centimeter per day. These spray cans of TBT paint remain an unregulated substance and may be applied by boaters without an applicator license.

Refuse Act of 1899

The Refuse Act of 1899 prohibits throwing, discharging, or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil, and other liquid pollutants) into waters of the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard shares authority of this law with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976) provides the legal authority to establish standards for handling, transporting, and disposing of hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and/or toxic materials. The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled EPA to address environmental problems that could result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances.

Hazardous waste generators are those individuals or companies that produce greater than 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds or 30 gallons) of hazardous waste during one calendar month or who store more than 100 kg at any one time. Consult your state for requirements that apply to hazardous waste generators.

Facilities that generate less than 100 kg of hazardous waste per month and do not accumulate more than 100 kg of waste at any one time are considered “small quantity generators.” Small quantity generators are not required to register with the EPA. Hazardous waste from small quantity generators should be sent to a disposal facility that is permitted, licensed, or registered by the state to manage municipal or industrial solid waste.

Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 prohibits the construction of any bridge, dam, dike or causeway over or in navigable waterways of the U.S. without Congressional approval. Under the Rivers and Harbors Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is authorized to regulate the construction of any structure or work within navigable waters under sections 9 and 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Marina developers must submit plans to the USACE for approval of construction, excavation, or deposition of materials in or affecting U.S. navigable waters.

Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Regulations

The Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations (40 CFR, Part 112) were put into effect in 1974. These regulations establish spill prevention and spill control requirements for facilities storing certain quantities of “oil.” The definition of “oil” is very broad, including, but not limited to, fuel oils, mineral and vegetable oils, animal oils, lubricating oils, greases, and oil mixed with waste.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 revised portions of the SPCC regulation. Any facility considered to pose a “significant and substantial harm” to the environment, based on the amount of oil stored (a million gallons), or location (within a certain distance from sensitive environments or a facility which conducts fuel transfers over water), must prepare a Facility Response Plan (FRP). This document is a very comprehensive spill response plan, and must be submitted to and approved by U.S. EPA. Typically, only very large facilities or facilities located directly on a waterway would be subject to this requirement.

Vessel Discharge Permit Program (Vessel General Permit)

Non-recreational vessel greater than 79 feet may be required to seek coverage under EPA’s new Vessel General Permit (VGP), which was issued on December 18, 2008. Recreational vessels as defined in section 502(25) of the CWA are not subject to the VGP. As a result of a recent court ruling, thousands of non-recreational vessel owners and operators who have previously been exempt from Clean Water Act requirements require an NPDES permit for their discharges as of February 6, 2009.

Selected Federal Agencies

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that environmental protections are considered in U.S. policies concerning economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, international trade, and environmental quality. The EPA ensures that national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information, and it provides access to information on ways business, state, and local governments, communities, and citizens can prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment. The Office of Water is responsible for implementing, among other laws, the Clean Water Act, portions on the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act. Activities are targeted to prevent pollution wherever possible and to reduce risk to people and ecosystems in the most cost-effective manner.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA’s mission is to describe and predict changes in the earth’s environment and to conserve and wisely manage the nation’s coastal and marine resources to ensure sustainable economic opportunities. NOAA provides a wide range of observational, assessment, research, and predictive services for estuarine and coastal Great Lakes regions. NOAA has developed an array of programs to address national-scale estuarine issues and specific problems affecting individual estuarine and coastal Great Lakes systems. In partnership with the EPA, NOAA implements the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. OSHA’s mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for ensuring adequate flood control, hydropower production, navigation, water supply storage, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. The USACE contracts and regulates coastal engineering projects, particularly harbor dredging and beach nourishment projects. They also review and permit coastal development and restoration projects. The majority of marina development and expansion projects, including dredging, will require a permit from the USACE.

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, protects the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests. The USCG promotes maritime safety and marine environmental protection, enforces maritime law, tends all federal navigation aids, and regulates and monitors recreational and commercial vessels and waterfront facilities.