Tennessee Paddlesports Association

Growing, Protecting, Supporting Tennessee's Paddlesports Businesses

Current Legislative Issues

TWRA Regulation of Paddlesports Outfitters

The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) has been developing regulations and permits for paddlesports outfitters since August 2018.  These potential permits are one of the biggest challenges facing paddlesports outfitters in 2019.

Here is a timeline of issues surrounding these regulations:

April 19, 2018

TN General Assembly passed SB1335/HB0785

Amendment #2 of this bill stated the following:

"This amendment authorizes the fish and wildlife commission to establish rules, regulations, permits, and procedures regulating all aspects of commercial operations that lease or rent non-motorized vessels for non-commercial use by the public on the waters of Tennessee. The amendment specifies that this authority does not extend to commercial outfitters operating pursuant to and in possession of a permit issued by the United States forest service on waters in and adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest."

Here is the history of this bill and how it formed:

110th TN General Assembly


August 23, 2018

On August 23, 2018 the TN Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) met to discuss formulation of new permits for Paddlesports Outfitters.

At the meeting, TWRA recommended the following:

  • regulate all aspects of commercial paddlecraft rentals (canoes, kayaks, SUP's, rafts and tubes) to non commercial customers on state rivers and private waters except for those in State Parks and those in National Forests and National Parks;
  • require fees for permits and for each vessel launched;
  • require each craft to show a registration number as well as the company name;
  • maintain records of the name of the individual renting each vessel and the date of the trip, which will be subject to a TWRA audit.

Video of TWRA Meeting on Aug 23, 2018


August 30, 2018

On August 30, 2018 the Tennessee Paddlesports Access Coaltion was formed to help fight the regulatory overreach of the TWRA

Proposals by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission of TWRA to regulate the human-powered, paddlesports industry in the state threaten paddlesports opportunities and the businesses that provide services to the general public by imposing unreasonable regulations and fees.

What the Tennessee Paddlesports Access Coalition supports:

  • Responsible-shared use of Tennessee’s navigable waterways;
  • Continuation of the recreational and economic benefits provided to the general public by paddlesports rental operations;
  • Continuation of the support for state and local government entities through the property, sales and franchise taxes paid by paddlesports businesses;
  • Continuation and improvement of the resource protection and safety practices implemented by paddlesports businesses;
  • No fees to individuals or on craft for use of state’s navigable waters;
  • Participation in the development of reasonable solutions that provide for sustainable paddlesports, fishing and boating opportunities on Tennessee waterways by addressing credible issues in a collegial manner.


August 30 to November 21, 2018

From August 30 to November 21, 2018  the Tennessee Paddlesports Access Coalition (TPAC) participated in several formal and informal discussions with TWRA in order to provide input on the proposed rules and permits.

TWRA formed a paddlesports advisory group which met twice. This group consisted of several TPAC members, fisherman, land owners and other stakeholders.  During those meetings, TPAC clearly articulated how a one year permit could have a negative impact on business owners. TPAC asked that the process be slowed down so the issues could be studied and better solutions could be developed by the group. During these meetings, TPAC members strongly opposed the per boat launch fees suggested by TWRA and discussed the negative impact that these regulations could have on local tourism.  


November 21, 2018

On November 21, 2018 the TWRA officially filed the proposed rules for paddlesports outfitters.

Download Proposed Rules from November 21, 2018

These proposed rules included the following fees:

  • $244 annual permit fee
  • $100 fee per 50 non-motorized vessels (NMV) (kayaks, canoes, SUPs) or for tubes $100 fee per 100 tubes in inventory

  • $1 launch fee for every NMV launched at a public access area. NMVs launched multiple times in one calendar day are subject to the public access launch fee for each launch. TWRA also clarified that the $1 must also be paid if you are taking out at a public access area

The proposed rules included a annual permit requiring the following information be provided:

  • The number of vessels owned by the commercial NMV outfitter that are available for lease or rent

  • The waterways of the state on which the applicant operates, if known;

  • Any public access areas utilized by the applicant;

  • Months of operation;

  • Tennessee Secretary of State control number, if applicable;

  • Proof of insurance; and

  • A copy of the applicant's Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration;

  • A copy of the applicant's business license;

  • Designated representative for the applicant.

Any violation of the proposed rules could result in the business owner receiving a Class C misdemeanor.


January 18, 2019

On January 18, 2019 the TFWC met to vote on the proposed rules regulation paddlesport outfitters. 

TWRA recommended substantial changes to the rules posted on the Secretary of State website.  They dropped all fees and made several other changes outlined in the video.

At this meeting there was vigorous discussion by committee members who were very displeased that the fees had been dropped. On several occasions committee members threaten to close TWRA boat ramps to all paddlers, they threatened to conduct undercover operations, video activities at the boat ramps, and clearly stated that this was not the end of regulations but instead just the beginning.  The Tennessee Paddlesports Association anticipates that if these rules pass the TN General Assembly there will be more rules, river specific restrictions, and more fees in the future for outfitters and private boat owners.

TWRA Meeting to Vote on Rules

Jan 18, 2019


January 31, 2019

TWRA has published the final rules approved by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, which the TWRA will now send to the Tennessee General Assembly for approval. 

The notable revisions include:

  • Water rescues are defined but still may be subject to interpretation since rescue is defined as "any occurrence in which, absent intervention, an occupant or operator of a commercial NMV could suffer serious bodily injury or death." 
  • The permit fee has yet to be determined but will not be required for the 2019 season. No other fees are proposed but the Commission has vowed to impose additional fees later.
  • Outfitters using TWRA access points will only be allowed to park in designated areas, which could be a limitation if ample space is not provided.
  • College and university programs are exempt.
  • A new troublesome requirement in Operating Requirements (b) appears to require permit holders to track which access point each boat visited each day.  

Operating requirements include recording keeping information that must be available for inspection by the TWRA.  Permit renewal is also contingent on keeping these records.  Those records are listed as 

(a) Number and type of NMV leased or rented each day;

(b) The public access and body of water utilized by an NMV each day, if known;

(c) Number of accidents and/or casualties involving the use of a commercial outfitter’s NMV; and

(d) Number of water rescues each day involving a commercial NMV outfitter’s vessel.

Permit applications must be submitted between October 1 and December 15.  The permit will not be required for the 2019 season since the permit requirement is not effective until October 1, 2019.

Each application shall include, among other information, (it is not clear what they mean by "other information") the following information for each applicant:  

(a) The number of vessels owned by the commercial NMV outfitter that are available for lease or rent;

(b) The waterways of the state on which the applicant intends to operate, if known;

(c) Any public access areas the applicant intends to utilize;

(d) Estimated months of operation;

(e) Tennessee Secretary of State control number, if applicable;

(f) A copy of the applicant’s business license;

(g) A copy of the applicant’s Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration;

(h) Proof of liability insurance; and

(i) Designated representative for the applicant.

It should be noted that the application information and any other information submitted to the TWRA will become public record unless otherwise protected by state law as proprietary.

TWRA also lists vessel and safety requirements, which include logo and names on vessels and requirements for the information to be included in the safety briefing with the methods for providing that information to customers subject to TWRA approval.

Vehicles must comply with all Department of Safety rules and park only in areas designated by the TWRA when using their access areas.  Parking restrictions could reduce outfitters' access to waterways.

Non-renewal of the permit is subject to 1660-04-01-.08

NONRENEWAL OF PERMIT states:

(1) A commercial NMV outfitter’s operating permit may not be renewed for failure to:

(a) Pay the requisite fees;

(b) Provide the necessary application information;

(c) Maintain the information and documentation required by Rule 1660-04-01-.03(2); or

(d) Produce and/or allow for the inspection of any information requested by the TWRA pursuant to Rule 1660-04-01-.03(3).

While these rules still have issues and TWRA's legislative authority still authorizes the agency to regulate "all aspects" of paddle craft rental operations, these rules are much better than originally proposed thanks to the efforts of TPA members who participated in the process.  However, there are still significant problems.


Feb 6, 2019

Legislation to Revise TWRA’s Regulatory Authority over Paddlesports Businesses Introduced in General Assembly

SB 665 and HB 1328 to eliminate TWRA's broad regulatory authority over paddlesports businesses have been filed for introduction in the State General Assembly. These bills are caption bills, which will be amended with specific language. Another bill to revise TWRA's authority to regulate non-motorized paddlesports outfitters has also been introduced.

The goal of these bills is to revise TWRA's authority to regulate all aspects of your business, which currently includes regulating outfitters not operating from TWRA ramps.  For outfitters using their ramps, HB 1328 and SB 665 would authorize outfitters access to TWRA access points with a parking fee for commercial vehicles.  TWRA rules currently propose to restrict paddlesports outfitters' to designated parking, which could limit access especially given the hostility toward paddlesports from the backers of TWRA's proposed regulations. 

Here is a link to the legislative website with the text: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0665

We are grateful to the sponsors of the proposed bills. 


Legislation to Rescind TWRA’s Broad Regulatory Authority over Paddlesports Businesses Introduced in General Assembly

SB 665 and HB 1328 to eliminate TWRA's broad regulatory authority over paddlesports businesses have been filed for introduction in the State General Assembly. These bills are caption bills, which will be amended with specific language. Another bill to rescind TWRA's authority to regulate non-motorized paddlesports outfitters has also been introduced.

The goal of these bills is to remove TWRA's authority to regulate all aspects of your business, which currently includes regulating outfitters not operating from TWRA ramps.  For outfitters using their ramps, HB 1328 and SB 665 would authorize outfitters access to TWRA access points with a parking fee for commercial vehicles.  TWRA rules currently propose to restrict paddlesports outfitters' to designated parking, which could limit access especially given the hostility toward paddlesports from the backers of TWRA's proposed regulations. 

Here is a link to the legislative website with the text: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0665

We are grateful to the sponsors of the proposed bills. 

May 2019

Legislation Signed by the Governor Establishes Paddlecraft Outfitter Advisory Committee to Advise on Implementation of Regulations

Legislation which passed the general assembly established an advisory committee to assist TWRA in the implementation of the regulation that were approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in January.  The Committee will not establish or modify existing regulation but help ensure that they are implemented appropriately.


January 2020

Getting Your TWRA Paddlecraft Outfitter Permit and Preparing For the Season

Update:  Since this post in January, the coronavirus crisis has suspended many outfitters operations.  We will be providing members with update TWRA's expectations in early April.

TWRA regulations are set for the 2020 season and add a new twist to preparations for paddlecraft rental outfitters.  

As a reminder below are some basic tasks you need to complete to be in compliance when you start the season.  This is not a complete list, so take time to read the TWRA regulations.

As you prepare, let us know of issues you encounter so we can take them to the TWRA through the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee.  TPA executive director David Brown is Chair of the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee.  

1.  File an application for your TWRA permit.    The link take you to a fillable form from TWRA.  To submit your application, you will need to know the following:

  • Number of non motorized vessels in your rental fleet
  • Public access points you intend to use (try to use the TWRA name)
  • Official documents to include are 1. Photocopy of Business License 2. Photocopy of Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration 3. Proof of Liability Insurance

2.  Read the TWRA regulations.  Click here.

3.  Develop an internal system to keep track of types of boats launched daily at public access points, accidents and water rescues.  The regulations require you to submit reports on May 1, October 1, and December 1 regarding which public access points you used during those periods and how many boats of various types you launched at each public access point.  Reports can be made by paper form or electronically.  TWRA is working up the systems and the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee is working with TWRA to develop a reasonable reporting system.  One issue will be insuring that there is some standard name used to report access points.  

Outfitters not using public access points are still supposed to report their daily numbers, but we don't know yet how specific that reporting will be.

The form will also require you to report accidents and water rescues.  It is important to note that a water rescue is not every time some capsizes in a canoe or kayak or falls off a paddleboard.  The definitions are as follows:

(7) “Accident” means any occurrence in which the operator of a commercial NMV requires medical attention beyond basic first aid.

(8) “Water rescue” means any occurrence in which, absent intervention, an occupant or operator of a commercial NMV could suffer serious bodily injury or death.

TWRA's safety report for 2018 found only one paddlecraft rental incident.  The other 6 were private paddlers.  This record keeping is likely to create a special report within the TWRA report.

4.  Develop your customer briefing consistent with TWRA regulations.  TWRA regulations specify content for briefings with flexibility for the type of water resources (river, lake).  TPA has outlines for each vessel and venue as an unofficial guideline and will have other materials available for members.  Contact us if you want them.  TWRA is also expected to post videos and other resources online.

5.  Put your name or logo.on each rental craft.  Many outfitters prefer a decal.  Some outfitters already have their names on their boats, but some who retail used rental boats have not done that in the past.


Tennessee Paddlesports Association, PO Box 66, Strawberry Plains, TN 37871   

1-800-995-4991

admin@tnpaddlesports.com

TN Paddlesports Association is a non-profit corporation

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