Corps Research Will Identify Economic Impact of Recreational Boating on Lake Ontario

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District employees from the Planning Management team have been out in the field this summer surveying marina owners and operators from six harbors in Lake Ontario between Wilson Harbor in Wilson, New York, and Little Sodus Bay Harbor in Fair Haven, New York.

The purpose of the surveys is to provide a detailed summary of the economic benefits generated by recreational boating and fishing activities. The six harbors surveyed were Great Sodus Bay Harbor, Little Sodus Bay Harbor, Irondequoit Bay Harbor, Oak Orchard Harbor, Olcott Harbor and Wilson Harbor.

A separate economic evaluation report of each harbor is being prepared. The reports will focus on the economic benefits generated by the operations of public and private marina facilities supporting recreational boating, fishing, tourism, transient boaters and other water related activities. Findings will include regional economic impacts of recreational boating in terms of boater spending and job creation.

The studies are being performed to provide data that may help justify dredging and other maintenance activities at recreational harbors.

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The Corps supports dredging harbors and channels to authorized depths and widths, but recreational harbors do not receive regular maintenance dredging. Federal funds are allocated based on performance outputs and national economic development benefits. So, commercial harbors and navigation channels receive the bulk of federal funding for dredging and maintenance efforts.  From a federal budget perspective, boat harbors serving primarily, or solely recreational users, do not produce high priority outputs. Therefore, the federal budget continues to give priority to those harbors and waterway segments that support high volumes of commercial traffic.

A 2008 study by the Corps Detroit District found that 4.3 million registered boats, nearly one-third of all recreational boats in the U.S., were registered in and around the Great Lakes. The study further stated that boating and boating activities in the Great Lakes totaled approximately 16 billion dollars and directly supported over 100,000 jobs.