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Regulatory Crosswalk - DRAFT

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are spread in many ways. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the costs and negative consequences from AIS. Managing the pathways which contribute to the introduction and movement of AIS is critical to controlling their spread.

In the past decade, federal and state policy-makers have directed significant policy attention to the recreational watercraft pathway. More than half of the U.S. states have enacted laws and regulations that require boaters to clean, drain, and dry the watercraft and related equipment prior to launch or upon removal from a waterbody to ensure that aquatic animals and plants are not transported accidentally. Seaplanes have not received much consideration, despite presenting a similar risk of unintentional transport of AIS between waterbodies on or within the floats and bilge compartments of seaplanes.


The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force recently identified the seaplane pathway as a high priority for further study. In 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funding to support a risk assessment of the seaplane pathway and the development of recommendations to enhance seaplane aquatic invasive species prevention. This work included an assessment of the current federal, state, Tribal, and local laws governing seaplanes to increase understanding of the legal framework and identify opportunities for policy reform to more effectively address AIS risk.


The Federal Aviation Administration has exclusive authority in regulating the airspace over the U.S. (49 U.S.C. § 40103(a)). The Federal Aviation Administration also oversees the design, production, and airworthiness of aviation products, the training and certification of pilots, and the certification and operation of airports. The regulation of aircraft in flight, however, does not preempt state and local regulation of aircraft landing sites. (Gustafson v. City of Lake Angelus, 76 F.3d 778, 783 (6th Cir. 1996)). States, Tribes, and local governments may enact a variety of statutes, regulations, and ordinances governing on-the-ground airport operations as long as they do not conflict with federal law. Thirty states have at least one statute or regulation referring to seaplanes (cross-reference to scoping report). Only a few of these laws address the risk of AIS spread.


To better understand state efforts to manage the seaplane pathway, the National Sea Grant Law Center created a regulatory crosswalk. Regulatory crosswalks provide a systematic approach to mapping the different attributes associated with a policy issue to enable further analysis. Crosswalk mapping can help policy-makers prioritize activities to achieved desired outcomes, including addressing identified gaps or increase interstate consistency. For this project, the policy attributes selected for analysis were drawn from the Seaplane Pilot Best Management Practices, developed as part of the “Reducing the Potential to Spread Aquatic Invasive Species Via the Seaplane Pathway” project.

To review the draft document, click here.

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