It’s official. The California Department of Boating and Waterways (better known as Cal Boating) — a self-supporting department funded by fees paid by boaters and interest repaid on boating infrastructure loans — was killed this week, as part of the governor’s new state government agency reorganization plan.
The department will be downgraded to a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation, starting in July 2013. Along with Cal Boating’s new lower status, the Boating and Waterways Commission — which holds public meetings where it makes decisions on how boater funds are spent — will be eliminated.
Boating advocacy groups have raised numerous red flags about the new potential there will be for mismanagement of funds that are designated to be spent on boating programs and boating facility improvements. Parks and Recreation is notorious for having major budget problems, and those boating dollars are expected to find their way to covering many non-boating-related expenses.
Cal Boating had been a shining example of a state agency that worked. It was self-supporting, required no General Fund dollars and provided all the boating safety and boating enhancement projects it was designed to offer — and then some. Other states looked to California and its Department of Boating and Waterways when creating their own boating agencies — and Cal Boating was a true success story.
Sadly, being a financially strong and successful government agency during a state budget crisis does not ensure its survival. Instead, that financial strength practically guaranteed Cal Boating’s demise.
Legislation is being crafted to attempt to save Cal Boating’s advisory commission, although the new proposed commission would no longer have authority to determine how the division’s funds are spent.
Cal Boating managed to survive for 55 years — including three attempts by previous governors to kill it and take its funding. Only outcry from thousands of boaters across the state, over and over again, kept legislators from eliminating Cal Boating before now.
Perhaps it is a miracle that Cal Boating — a shining example of a government agency that worked, on a budget — was allowed to continue so long.