Georgia Committee Considers Public Rights on Rivers
This fall the newly formed Georgia House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources sought public input on fishing rights on Georgia's waterways. During these deliberations, Georgia's definition of navigable waters has been the subject of much discussion. As the Committee’s efforts come to a close this month, they may or may not recommend that the House of Representatives draft legislation regarding the public’s rights on rivers and streams in Georgia. Any such legislation, if adopted, could limit or confirm paddlers' legal rights to paddle rivers and streams in Georgia.
American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Georgia Canoeing Association, and Georgia River Network recently wrote a letter to the Committee advocating for the long-held public right to paddle on the state's streams. Citing legal precedent in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, we shared that rights of recreational passage are clear and distinct from both fishing rights and landowners' rights, and we advocated for an appropriate modern-day test for the right of passage. We also stressed the importance of paddling to the economy, quality of life, and public health for many Georgia residents and visitors.
The work of the Committee was in large part inspired by legal dust-ups that have put public rights at risk and that have recently been featured in high-profile media articles. American Whitewater and our partners will be closely following this issue in the weeks and months ahead, including reviewing any report issued by the Committee in the coming month.