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Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

An Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, with two accounts—a Sport Fish Restoration Account and a Boat Safety Account—was created in 1984 and subsequently amended to support a variety of programs administered by three federal agencies, including wetlands management, recreational vessel docking and sewage disposal infrastructure, and aquatic resource education. In 2005, the Boat Safety Account was terminated and remaining programs were consolidated into a renamed Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. This report details sources of funding for this trust fund and summarizes the various programs and activities receiving funding.

The five sources of income to the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund are (1) the portion of federal fuel taxes attributable to motorboat fuel from the Highway Trust Fund; (2) annual tax receipts attributable to small engine fuel used for outdoor power equipment from the Highway Trust Fund; (3) annual receipts from a manufacturers' excise tax on sport fishing equipment; (4) annual receipts from import duties on fishing tackle and on yachts and pleasure craft; and (5) interest on funds invested prior to disbursal. Total FY2008 income from these five sources was approximately $708 million.

The eight efforts funded from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund are (1) three coastal wetlands conservation and restoration programs; (2) recreational boating safety; (3) construction of sewage pump-out and dump stations for recreational vessel sewage disposal; (4) construction of docking facilities for large transient recreational vessels; (5) national aquatic resource outreach and communications; (6) multi-state conservation grants; (7) interstate fishery commissions and the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council; and (8) state grants for sport fish restoration projects.

Some of the proposals under discussion by Congress for reauthorizing federal surface transportation programs—which had been required by the end of FY2009 but were extended several times for short terms, most recently by provisions in P.L. 111-147, which extended the authorizations through December 31, 2010—include an increase (possibly more than doubling) of the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal fuel tax to better fund highway infrastructure programs through the Highway Trust Fund. The 111th Congress may decide whether the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund receives substantial benefits (possibly exceeding an additional $350 million annually) if the federal fuel tax is increased. A corollary set of questions focuses on whether, and if so how, the various programs supported by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund might be modified to expend increased receipts, should a federal fuel tax increase be enacted.

Date of Report: June 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS22060
Price: $29.95

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