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New Requirement to Carry a Boater Education Card Proposed for Washington State

Posted: 01/29/2021
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Legislation has been introduced in the Washington State legislature that would require operators of all boats and vessels that are human-propelled (e.g. kayaks, canoes, rafts, stand up paddle boards) to possess a boater education card providing evidence of completing a boating safety education program.


House Bill 1018 had a hearing in the House Community & Economic Development Committee on Wednesday January 20th at 10am. It is sponsored by Representatives Lovick, Ryu, Ortiz-Self, Goodman, and Orwall.


Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5176 (original version of Senate Bill 5176 for reference) was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee on Thursday January 28th at 1:30pm but was pulled from the agenda. The original bill and the substitute is sponsored by Committee Chair Senator Van De Wege.


The two bills are different but would both modify existing statute requiring a boater education card for those operating a motorized boat and establish a new requirement for paddlers to have such a card. The Proposed Substitute Senate Bill would direct Washington State Parks to "establish a specialized human-propelled vessel boater education card" and "an operator of a human-propelled vessel in marine waters must obtain either a boater education card or a human-propelled vessel boater education card." The bill makes a confusing set of edits to existing statute for operators of motor driven boats (RCW 79A.60.640) that could be interpreted to mean an "operator" of a "vessel" must be 12 years of age of older or alternatively that those with a human-powered vessel boater education card could operate a motor driven boat. 


The House bill more clearly states that paddlers would be required to take an accredited course, a mandatory course of instruction on boating safety education specific to paddling that has been approved by Washington State Parks. A boating safety education course substantially equivalent to the standards adopted by State Parks would also be eligible for a boater education card upon application and payment of the fee. The original house would have prevented those under 12 years of age from paddling their own boat but a subsequent amendment offered by the bill sponsor Representative Lovick would allow youth to paddle their own boat if they were under direct supervision of an individual 16 years or older with a boater education card.

The proposed House legislation stipulates that "no person shall operate or permit the operation of human-powered boats and vessels unless the person has in his or her possession a boater education card." Any person who is not a resident of Washington state, and who holds a current out-of-state or out-of-country certificate or card that is equivalent to the rules adopted by the commission, would also suffice. A boater would be required to carry the boater education card while operating a vessel and would be required to present the boater education card, to a law enforcement officer upon request. We encourage paddlers to read the legislative text at the links above (underlined text in the legislation represents the proposed changes to existing state law).


American Whitewater testified in opposition to the House Bill 1018 and submitted written testimony in opposition to Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5176; we will continue to engage on the legislation to express concerns with the lack of consultation with the paddlesports community and those directly engaged in water and paddlesports safety instruction. We are interested in the thoughts of our membership and will engage with legislators based on input we receive.


We encourage all paddlers who have input on the legislation to consider testifying; with the state legislature closed to the public, residents of the state have the option of submitting written testimony or testifying remotely by video from their home.


Current Status of House Legislation (HB 1018)


The House held a hearing on HB 1018 before the Community and Economic Development Committee, Meeting 1/20/2021 at 10am. You can view the video of the hearing and testimony on this bill that begins at 34:28. When public testimony opened, the Committee gave 20 minutes to a panel that included Tom Hayward, COO of National Association State Boating Law Administrators, and Amy Brackenbury of Oyster Bay Public Affairs representing Kalkomey Enterprises, a Texas-based company that provides hunter safety, ATV safety, hand gun safety, and other safety courses through agreements with state agencies. These two individuals were the only two testifying in support of the bill and their remarks can be viewed at time 45:53-1:04:50 in the video (note: please don't reach out to these indviduals or businesses directly; direct concerns on legislation to legislators). Unfortunately Washington State constituents, organizational representatives, and businesses who would be directly impacted by the legislation were limited to 1-3 minutes of testimony each. Those testifying opposed included Scott Holley, Eddyline Kayaks; Thomas O'Keefe, American Whitewater; David Hablewitz, individual; Brent Roth, American Canoe Association (ACA); John Edwards, individual; Lucas Rietmann, individual; Mark Zoller, Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys; Brian Miller, individual; Don McKenzie, individual; Christian Knight, individual; Rich Lague, individual; Peter Schrappen, Northwest Marine Trade Association. Those testifying other included Doug Levy, Recreational Boating Association of Washington; Owen Rowe and Rob Sendak, Washington State Parks & Recreation Comm. American Whitewater raised concerns with the lack of opportunity for Washington State constituents with the Committee Chair after the hearing; we appreciate that she acknowledged the concern and committed to continued dialogue on the legislation with Washington State constituents. We appreciate that Represenative Lovick reached out to American Whitewater and other businesses and organizations with expertise in paddlesports safety for a conversation on Monday 1/25/2021. All Washington State interests who tesfied at the hearing were opposed or raised concerns. American Whitewater's oral statement and written testimony are linked as documents to this article. 


American Whitewater member David Hablewitz, who testified in his personal capacity, also wrote up blog post that provides an account of the hearing.


Current Status of Senate Legislation (SB 5176)


The Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5176 was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee scheduled for 1/28/2021 at 1:30. At the start of the hearing the Chair Van De Wege pulled the bill from the agenda. He stated that "we are passing on language to Representative Lovick [sponsor of HB1018]  that would also exempt guided tours from that bill; I think would alleviate a lot of concerns and it would additionally alleviate the tribal concerns for guided tours with their canoe journeys." The Chair also noted that personal information of a lobbysist for the bill has been published and she has been subjected to harassment. The Chair reminded everyone that this is inappropriate and ineffective. We concur and urge everyone to direct their concerns on the legislation directly to our elected represenatives. We have reached out to Senator Van De Wege requesting an opportunity to open a dialgoue if there are any plans to continue purusing this bill in the Senate.


Signing in for the hearing, the sole supporter of the Proposed Substitute Senate Bill was Kalkomey Enterprises. Opponents of the bill included American Whitewater, American Canoe Association (ACA), Community Boating Center, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Eddyline Kayaks, Exotic Aquatics Scuba & Kayaking, Hoh Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures, National Center for Cold Water Safety, North Sound Sea Kayak Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association, Northwest Outdoor Center, OOPS, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, REI Co-op, Ship to Shore Marine, Spokane Paddling, The Suquamish Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, Washington Kayak Club, Washington Retail Association, Washington Water Trails, Yakima River Runners, Zoller's Outdoor Odysseys, and several individuals. Those with a position of other included Aguaverde - Toyer Strategic Advisors, Exotic Aquatics Scuba & Kayaking, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, Recreational Boating Assn. of WA, Washington State Parks & Recreation Comm, and a few indivdiuals.


Amerian Whitewater member David Hablewitz, also wrote up a blog post with reflections on the Senate bill and activity in the legislature.


How To Testify


Should an opportunity to testify on this bill re-emerge, we will update this post with the Committee information and time.

Review the How To Testify Page:

Follow the Committee Sign in Link:

Select Senate/House, Committee (Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee or House Community & Economic Development Committee), Hearing Date and Time, and Agenda Item (SB 5176 or HB 1018)


You then have three options: 1) submit written testimony, 2) testify live during the hearing (a unique link will be emailed to you allowing you to participate by video conference), or 3) register a position for the bill for the hearing record.


Make a Comment to Your Representatives


In addition to weighing in at the hearing, you can also send a comment directly to your represetnatives at any time during the session.


To send a note to your representatives go to the direct page for the bill:

House Bill 1018:

Senate Bill 5176:


On the right side of the page you will see a link to "Comment on this bill;" you can also select "Get Email Notifications" to stay updated on bill progress. After you select the comment link you enter your address to verify your District, select the legislators you want to send a note to, and then select your position and write a comment.


We will continue to update this post as additional information becomes available.

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
Full Profile


House Bill 1018 Statement of Opposition (1/20/2021)

Opposition to House Bill 1018 Concerning Boater Education

House Bill 1018 Hearing Testimony in Opposition (1/21/2021)

Oral testimony in opposition to House Bill 1018 Concerning Boater Education

Senate Bill 5176 Statement of Opposition (1/28/2021)

Statement of Opposition for hearing on Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 5176.

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