Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Floating the collective green boat

We’re a boating state for sure. So we think we have a sure-fire audience for a new website we’ve just lit up. It took Ecology about two years to build the concept of Clean, Green Boating. This is a one-stop location for boaters to jump into green boating and keep Washington waters clean and healthy.

While building this site, we were astounded to learn that Washington has more than 250,000 licensed pleasure crafts. And this doesn’t count the vast number of larger yachts registered with the U.S. Coast Guard. What if all of these boaters adopted green boating practices? We think this could really help improve the health of our waters.

In developing the site, we got a taste of how diverse boating education information is on the web. Lots of governmental agencies and organizations own a piece of boating!

For Ecology, the two key programs involved are Water Quality and Spills. Outside of Ecology, boater information comes from the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program. There’s also the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Clean Marina Program.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cares about clean boating practices because they help keep state owned aquatic lands clean and healthy. Clean boating benefits habitat for fish and wildlife, and people who enjoy the natural world. The state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) has its own Green Boating website.

Now Ecology’s site contains boater information from RCO and the Department of Fish and Wildlife about how they can help combat the spread of aquatic invasive species. The list of groups that own a piece of the boating pie goes on and on. We’ve listed many of the players here.

One of Ecology’s motives in developing this site was to deliver some educational guidance about proper hull cleaning. Many boat hulls are painted with soft, toxic paints. It is illegal to clean these types of hulls in the water or near a storm drain because toxic chemicals in the paints can kill fish and aquatic life.

Did you know that you could face a fine of up to $10,000 for in-water hull cleaning of this type of hull?

Toxic boat hulls can be an environmental problem. A 2007 study by Ecology found elevated concentrations of copper inside two Puget Sound marinas. Marinas have been shown to be sources of copper to the marine environment, the primary source being antifouling paints on boat hulls. Read more about the study here: Dissolved Copper Concentrations in Two Puget Sound Marinas.

Ecology’s new website encourages all boaters to “know your hull” before you clean it. We encourage boaters to learn more about hard coatings and epoxy-based hard paints for boat hulls. These products provide a slick surface and they are safe for in-water cleaning. The surfaces discourage organism growth, last longer, and minimize harm to the environment. Best of all, these surfaces can improve your boat’s performance and save fuel costs. One of these coatings could be right for your boat.

DNR helped us write and design an educational hull-cleaning advisory poster that we would like to eventually distribute to marinas across the state. It’s great guidance to help boaters be knowledgeable about keeping toxic chemicals from getting into waters. The poster says that if your boat hull has soft, toxic paint, do NOT clean it in or near the water, or near a storm drain. To do this work yourself on land, use a tarp and vacuum sander to collect all debris, and dispose of it properly. Better yet, take your boat to an approved boatyard for this work!

Clean, Green Boating — like its green and alive name — is a living website.

We want to keep improving it over time. If you have ideas to include something we’ve missed let us know. You can email me directly at

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