Rule Requires Group Permit to Paddle in RI

Rule Requires Group Permit to Paddle in RI
Photo/New England Boating reports that a new regulation in the Rhode Island fishing extract for 2014 has caused some consternation among groups that lead kayak and canoe trips on the state’s rivers and ponds. The rule states that any organized group of 6 people and/or 3 boats is prohibited from paddling without the permission of the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM). That permission must be obtained at least 3 weeks prior to the outing, and afterward a report must be filed stating who went on the trip.

DEM says the permit is needed to determine the capacity of the local launch ramps and water body, possible conflicts with competing users and support facilities at the ramp, such as parking areas and restrooms.

Further fueling concern is language stating that a penalty will be levied if the event isn’t held and the state isn’t notified at least 3 weeks in advance, regardless of weather-related cancellations. If that happens, the group applying for the permit will not be allowed to paddle on state rivers or ponds for at least a year.

DEM deputy chief Christine Dudley said that “organized” events include fishing tournaments, Boy Scout troop activities and trips held by groups such as the Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Association.

In response to questions about the regulation, DEM Director Janet Coit said her agency will “look at the public benefit and see if it (the regulation) is working.” She noted that any changes to the regulation would take effect after an annual review of all the rules is complete.

The deadline for making changes to the 2015 regulations, however, has passed. Workshops were held in April and a hearing in June. Dudley said the rule would stand for at least another year unless an emergency necessitated a change.

DEM says the regulation became necessary because some groups were trying to use the same fishing access on the same day and that created conflicts. The rule was later refined to add the cancelation penalty because some groups were booking fishing access areas just to reserve them and then canceling a day in advance, she said.

The permit includes placards for each car taking part in the organized event, so DEM enforcement officers can cite any other group that is in violation.

“We have a lot of latitude to look at each case individually,” Dudley said, “and can understand that paddling events might have to be canceled because of weather.”

Read more about the rule that requires paddling groups to apply for a permit to hold organized trips on Rhode Island ponds and rivers.