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Paddling Restrictions Eased in Potomac River Dispute

Posted: 04/03/2019
by Kevin Colburn

The US Coast Guard has pulled back their 2017 decision to close a popular section of the Potomac River whenever high ranking political officials are using the adjacent Trump National Golf Course. The decision to replace the 2017 rule came in response to over 630 public comments, significant media, and a lawsuit filed by the AW affiliate club Canoe Cruisers Association. Watch a news video here with interviews and scenes from the river.

The new interim rule is a big step in the right direction. In place of a full river closure when high ranking politicians are golfing, the new interim rule proposes a 250yd "transit lane" down the Maryland side of the river during those times, shrinks the length of the closed reach to enhance public access, and provides public notice of the closures. Specifically regarding the closure length, paddlers have been granted a 170 yard path across the Potomac River from Violettes Lock to the opening of the old George Washington Canal. Paddlers can use the transit lane to pass downstream when a closure is in place only with permission from the Coast Guard, though the new interim rule offers no guidance on why permission would be either granted or denied.

Here is a simple map we made depicting the transit zone and boundaries of the security zone as we understand them:

Paddlers are encouraged to file commentson the new interim rule asking that the transit lane be open unless paddlers are asked to leave for good cause, versus closed unless paddlers are given permission.

We'd like to thank the Coast Guard for meaningfully responding to public concerns, the Canoe Cruisers Association for taking this issue to court, and all the paddlers who submitted a comment back in 2017!

Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC