Representatives Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), and Jared Huffman (D-California), recently introduced the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act (H.R. 6906). This bipartisan, bicameral bill — companion to legislation introduced in 2023 by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) and Martin Heinrich (D-Nevada) — addresses several priority areas for the recreational boating and fishing industry. The legislation would improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed areas, provide new opportunities for public-private investments, and give local districts more flexibility to reinvest their resources. USACE is one of the largest federal outdoor recreation providers in the nation — second in visitation to the National Park Service and the leading provider of water-based outdoor recreation activities in the U.S.
“Thank you to Rep. Bruce Westerman, Rep. Steve Womack, and Rep. Jared Huffman for championing the introduction of the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This legislation prioritizes the maintenance and upkeep of high-use recreation infrastructure and facilities enjoyed by millions of Americans. By providing the Army Corps of Engineers with the ability to reinvest recreation fees into the operations and maintenance of recreation access points, the LAKES Act helps support the outdoor recreation economy, which contributes more than $1 trillion to our country’s economy and represents a significant pastime for millions of Americans.”
Under existing law, local USACE managers cannot retain recreation fee revenues collected onsite, an authority afforded to NPS, the U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Federal land management agencies’ ability to retain fees derived from recreation and reinvest back into the maintenance and operation of high-use, revenue-generating assets is integral to ensuring that recreation facilities supporting public access can remain in safe, working condition. Establishing this steady revenue stream will provide a level of certainty for the USACE recreation program that resources will be available to make critical investments as the agency continues to support historically high visitation.
To correct these issues, the LAKES Act would allow the USACE to:
- Retain 80 percent of recreation fees collected onsite for operations and maintenance at that location
- Enter into cooperative agreements with local nonprofits
- Handle partner-collected fees and return them to the partner jointly managing the recreation facility to reinvest on site
For questions or additional information, please contact Callie Hoyt, NMMA vice president of government relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.