On January 18, 2018, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) held a public hearing on proposed rules and fees for commercial outfitters of paddecraft (canoes, kayaks, tubes, etc). Click here to see the proposed rules for "commercial non-motorized vessel outfitters."
More people than ever before enjoy recreating on Tennessee's waterways, which is cause for celebration. However, a number of problems have come with the rising popularity of paddlecraft, including safety concerns, littering, parking congestion, and conflicts with anglers and property owners. The Harpeth Conservancy applauds TWRA’s efforts to address some of these issues by proposing regulations for commercial paddlecraft rental.
In addition to some safety and permitting requirements, the draft regulation imposed fees on commercial paddlecraft outfitters. Under the proposed rules, the TWRA would have collected annual general operating permit fees of $244, vessel inventory fees based on the number of non-motorized vessels (NMVs) an outfitter has available for rental ($100 per 50 NMVs and $100 per 100 tubes), and paddlecraft launch fees that would cost outfitters $1 every time they put a boat (or tube) in the water.
On January 9, 2019, the Harpeth Conservancy submitted comments to the TWRA about these proposed paddlecraft regulations, suggesting a number of revisions and additions. CLICK HERE to see the Harpeth Conservancy's comments.
The three most important suggestions the Harpeth Conservancy made were:
KEEP OUR FEES IN OUR RIVER: Most of the fees collected from launching paddlecraft into a river should be used to improve the environmental and recreational conditions of that same river. The Harpeth Conservancy suggests creating separate trusts for each waterbody on which paddlecraft outfitters operate, and any launch fees collected from vessels put into a given waterbody should be credited to the corresponding trust.
START CAPACITY STUDIES NOW: Tackling the challenges of growing paddlecraft traffic requires data. The Harpeth Conservancy has long recognized the problem of river congestion - learn more about the Harpeth River Blueway here and the general permit for construction of river access points that the Harpeth Conservancy helped design here. In the context of regulating paddlecraft outfitters, the Harpeth Conservancy urges the TWRA to conduct (or hire a third party to conduct) capacity studies on Tennessee's most heavily recreated waters. The TWRA itself has noted that such studies can take a long time, which is all the more reason to start them as soon as possible.
FORM A PERMANENT PADDLECRAFT ADVISORY BOARD: The Harpeth Conservancy advocates engaging stakeholders who are impacted by how paddlecraft rental is regulated and how the money generated from such regulations is spent in the rulemaking and revenue spending processes. Such stakeholders include the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, anglers' organizations, environmental advocacy organizations, and the paddlecraft outfitters themselves. Including commercial paddlecraft outfitters in the rulemaking process will help garner the support of the regulated community. Outfitters can also provide valuable information about industry standard practices, which are useful as regulatory baselines.
The Harpeth Conservancy will continue to offer input to the TWRA to make the best paddlecraft regulations possible - rules that effectively and efficiently address the emerging problems of non-motorized vessel rental without imposing undue economic hardship on outfitters or spending the money on unrelated projects and rivers.