Federal Coast Guard Law is set to change for the better, allowing throw ropes as a “type of
life saving equipment,” in lieu of throw cushions under rafting regulations on
federally managed whitewater rivers across the country. On November 27, 2018, the "Frank
LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018" headed to the President's desk for his
The following language is in the Act:
SEC. 827. EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS; EXEMPTION FROM
THROWABLE PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES REQUIREMENT.
Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the department
in which the Coast Guard is operating shall-
(1) prescribe regulations in part 160 of title 46, Code of Federal Regulations, that treat a
marine throw bag, as that term is commonly used in the commercial whitewater rafting industry, as
a type of life saving equipment; and
(2) revise section 175.17 of title 33, Code of Federal Regulations, to exempt rafts that are 16
feet or more overall in length from the requirement to carry an additional throwable personal
flotation device when such a marine throw bag is onboard and accessible.
The above language means that in another year the US Coast Guard rules on throw cushions will
change. It means managing agencies who regulate whitewater rivers across the country will retool
their regulations, following the new USCG language, to allow you to bring a throw rope when you
go boating and leave the throw cushion at home, if YOU want to. You don't have to, but you
can if you want to.
Clearly, this was a unified bi-partisan effort by a lot of people from across the country working
the issue. Everyone who helped needs to stand up and take a bow.
We’d like to especially thank Tom Martin from River Runners For Wilderness, who spearheaded
this effort and spent years advocating for this important change. He brought it to our attention
and American Whitewater was able to help rally our membership in support of this change and make
a few strategic calls to legislative offices engaged on Coast Guard issues to seal the