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House approves temporary extension of sport fishing and boating fund

Temporary extension of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. It got virtually no attention because the measure was tucked into legislation that would also temporarily extend the Highway Trust Fund, which got all the notice. But extension of this support for recreational fishing and boating was included the Highway & Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 5021). The report on the bill first became available online on the congressional website on Saturday, July 19, 2014. But the program is in technical danger of expiring soon if Congress does not renew it quickly.

SFRA is scheduled to expire at the end of September. The bill would extend it for eight months, through May 31, 2015. The bill would make no other changes to the program. Because of the urgency of the matter (the highway trust fund may run out of money around the beginning of August), the bill was immediately placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders as Calender No. 468. No vote has yet been scheduled, though. Its fate in the Senate remains unclear.

Money from the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund is used under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection & Restoration Act for coastal wetlands protection, recreational boating safety, projects under the Clean Vessel Act, boating infrastructure projects, and the National Outreach & Communications Program.

The fund dates back to 1950. It gets funded by the excise and import taxes on fishing equipment and pleasure boats, as well as a portion of motor boat fuel tax. It funds the Sport Fishing & Boating Partnership Council. But most of the money goes to states and territories, with some to the Multistate Conservation Grant Program. States use the money for the Aquatic Resource Education Program and to improve boating access. The U.S. Coast Guard also uses some of the money for boating safety projects