Help Stop Proposed Unreasonable Registration Fees in Connecticut

posted January 27, 2003
by Kevin Colburn

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Northeastern Paddlers Alert: A Proposed Connecticut Bill Would License Canoes and Kayaks over 10 Feet.

A bill was recently proposed in the state of Connecticut that would require hard boaters to pay a fee to license every boat that they own that is greater than 10 feet. This action would likely create a loss of revenue for the state since the cost of implementing and enforcing such a program would likely far exceed any reasonable registration charge, and the program would also encourage out of state paddlers to not travel to Connecticut to paddle.

American Whitewater feels strongly that such regulations do nothing for paddlers or rivers, and are not a wise use of public resources. We are also fighting similar legislation in Montana. If you live in, or travel to Connecticut to paddle, Please contact your state representatives immediately and tell them that Proposed Bill No. 600, LCO No. 2044, Introduced in January of this year should not be supported. We feel that these regulations could spread to shorter boats and other states and could seriously impinge on the use of public waters by the public.

The Bill can be viewed at

http://www.cga.state.ct.us/2003/tob/s/2003SB-00600-R00-SB.htm

Key reasons for opposing the boat registration fee proposed in Bill 600:

1. Most or all revenue generated will be consumed by the cost of administration and what little remains will be consumed by enforcement. Do the calculations: 20,000 registrations times $10.00 equals $200,000. This is hardly enough to fund administration costs, 2-3 enforcement officers for the state plus vehicles and mileage. In a state such as Connecticut, 20,000 boat registrations under this policy is an optimistic number.
2. There is no estimate on the number of human powered watercraft meeting the bill's definition and therefore no clear estimate of the revenue potentially generated.
3. The draft bill does not guarantee allocation of a fixed percentage of the revenue toward access site improvements or facilities maintenance.
4. Most kayakers and canoeists need very little if anything in the manner of infrastructure and certainly no need for enforcement. In fact, most human powered boaters prefer more pristine settings with few if any facilities that would detract from the natural beauty of the river itself. The few rivers that receive heavy use in the state already have access areas. Most of the whitewater boating in the state occurs in areas where the concept of a public boating area is unnecessary and obtrusive (the many creeks, trailheads, road crossings, pullouts, etc). Simply put, most boaters would rarely benefit from their registration expenditure nor would they want that type of development along the river corridor.
5. Registration numbers will not remain attached to kayak hulls very long because the boats are subject to heavy abrasion from rocks, trees and other objects found on rivers and streams.
6. Whitewater boaters typically own more than a single canoe, kayak or raft. As a result, they will pay a disproportionate share of boating fees as compared to the owner of a single, much more expensive powerboat. There is also a high rate of turnover of whitewater boats that will make it difficult for either the owners or the administering agency to keep up with registration paperwork.
7. The bill will increase the operating costs for civic organizations, university programs, tour operators, commercial angling outfitters and whitewater outfitters.
8. Since very few states require the registration and numbering of canoes, kayaks and rafts it will create an inconvenience and added cost for paddlers visiting Connecticut. This will discourage paddlers from coming to the state spending money for campgrounds, motels, food and gas eventually causing a decrease in tourism revenues further impacting the state economy.

In short we would like to see boats powered by paddle, oar or sail to be exempted from the legislation. In it's present form it will not generate sufficient revenue to fund river management or access improvements for human powered river recreation. Furthermore, for anglers this equates to an additional fee to access Connecticut waters.

Connecticut State Senator David Cappiello intends to vote against this bill. Boaters should feel free to write supportive letters to him at david.cappiello@po.state.ct.us.

Wayne Smith recently offered the following information on the Northeastern Paddlers Message Board.

1) The CT marine trades association is behind the bill (The senator who sponsored the bill admitted that today), claiming that paddlers are responsible for 51% of all boating deaths, and need to be regulated. (Abolutely not true)
2) When you register your boat, if you can't prove where you bought it, you'll have to pay sales tax on it before you can get it registered.
3) Depending on what town you live in, you may be subject to property taxation on an annual basis because you have a registered craft.
4) The main thrust of the bill is to get federal matching funds, which are based solely on the number of registered boats in the state. This is also *your* money.

So, you can get taxed as many as 4 times just to go paddling. I'd say that's pretty outrageous, but that's just my opinion. I do not trust the state to put the money back into projects that would benefit paddlers, rowers, or sailors. Their recent track record with public funds speaks for itself.
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