State, National Groups Applaud Bipartisan LAKES Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), member of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, announced broad support for the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act. Click here to learn more about the bill, which they introduced today to improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-managed areas.

The USACE is one of the largest federal outdoor recreation providers in the nation, managing nearly 257,000 facilities in 43 states. Already, over 25 organizations across the country, including in North Dakota, have highlighted how the legislation would positively impact their work. Read what some shared below, and visit the corresponding links to access letters from an array of industry stakeholders, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the Corps Foundation.

North Dakota

“Our organization works to support recreational, economic, and environmental opportunities at Lake Sakakawea, including investing in improvements to enhance quality of place and the experience of users and visitors. We support and encourage passage of provisions that would allow the USACE to use recreational fees to maintain the facilities where they were generated,” said Michael Gunsch, Vice Chairman Friends of Lake Sakakawea.

“For the State of North Dakota, recreation is incredibly important to our citizens and economy as one of the eight authorized purposes for which the U.S. Army Corps operates the Missouri River system dams,” said Andrea Travnicek, North Dakota Department of Water Resources Director. “We’re excited for the LAKES Act to authorize the U.S. Army Corps to reinvest locally raised fees back into proper facility management and access in areas where they’re most needed.”

The tourism industry of North Dakota and outdoor enthusiasts appreciate Senator Cramer’s efforts to support this legislation which will enable partnerships between local entities and the US Army Corp of Engineers to improve management of public lands and facilities, and ensure that collected fees are reinvested back into local resources for the benefit of all. In North Dakota our outdoor recreation industry is dependent on federal land management agencies, and having consistent policies helps assure that recreation is considered a priority. The bill will also allow Army Corps districts to better plan local maintenance and improvement projects in collaboration with neighboring communities,” said Sara Otte Coleman, Tourism Director, North Dakota Department of Commerce. 

“For years the Corps projects in North Dakota have been short on staff and funds to fully implement recreational programs, including full boat ramp maintenance on their jurisdictional lakes. If the intentions of this pending legislation are fully implemented, more of North Dakota outdoors will become accessible to all. Thank you to Senators Cramer and Heinrich for introducing the LAKES Act and prioritizing local recreation,” said Jeb Williams, Director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.


“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a leading provider of public recreation opportunities for recreational boaters and all outdoor enthusiasts, positioning the agency as a key facilitator of significant economic activity in communities across the country. The Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act will allow the Corps to reinvest recreation fees into the operations and maintenance of recreation access points– a huge asset for the agency’s ability to keep high-use infrastructure and facilities in safe and good working condition for millions of Americans that rely on Corps managed recreation sites to experience the outdoors,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “As Americans take advantage of recreation opportunities our nation’s parks and lakes systems afford, investing in a historically underfunded – albeit integral – recreation agency such as the Corps is critical in ensuring our nation’s infrastructure is kept up to date and the local economic activity driven by recreation is safeguarded. We applaud Senators Cramer and Heinrich for their bipartisan leadership in prioritizing safe, accessible public recreation opportunities through introduction of the LAKES Act.”

“It has been estimated that outside the Great Lakes, 80% of the recreational fishing done in the United States occurs in reservoirs.  A very large percentage of that fishing is done on impoundments owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Boating and fishing access facilities at those reservoirs are extremely important to many of the over 550,000 members of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.). Maintaining those facilities in the face of increasing boating and fishing participation can only be achieved if funding is adequate,” said Gene Gilliland, Conservation Director of B.A.S.S. “Our members who pay access/launch fees expect their ‘investment’ to remain at their local project — user pay/user benefit. This proposed legislation will help ensure that USACE projects are better able to serve the public and meet user expectations.”

“The nation’s 52.4 million anglers rely on modern and resilient recreational infrastructure to access public waters,” said Connor Bevan, Inland Fisheries Policy Manager at the American Sportfishing Association. “The LAKES Act will enable the Army Corps to reinvest recreation fees into launches, docks and piers, ensuring the Corps can sustainably maintain recreation facilities and form public-private partnerships to keep fishing and boating opportunities abundant.”

“Since the Army Corps of Engineers began collecting user fees for launching boats at Corps water projects decades ago, there was a local expectation that those fees would be used to maintain and upgrade the boat ramps from which they were collected,” said Jeff Crane, President and CEO of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “While that has yet to happen, the bipartisan LAKES Act will do just that, returning fees to where they belong and enhancing angling access to millions of acres of Corps-managed waters across the country.”

Additional national organizations endorsing the bill include: the Association of Marina Industries; Back Country Horsemen of America; Boat Owners Association of the United States; International Game Fish Association; Marine Retailers Association of the Americas; National Association of Boating Law Administrators; National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds; National Professional Anglers Association; Outdoor Industry Association; Outdoor Recreation Roundtable; People for Bikes; Public Lands Alliance; REI; RV Industry Association; Southeast Tourism Society; Bass Federation, Inc.; Vista Outdoors; and Walleye Federation.

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