The TN Paddlesports Association opposes the proposed regulations on Outfitters renting non-motorized paddlecraft
The TN Paddlesports Association opposes the proposed regulations because they destabilize many existing paddlesports businesses which have operated responsibly for years. We believe some of the proposed regulations are illegal, such as launch fees, collecting fees at ramps which are not owned or managed by the TWRA, and controlling permit holders’ riverside property. TWRA is essentially proposing a fee to paddle the state’s waters by imposing a launch and take-out fee on the customers of paddlesports businesses. These fees will make paddling experiences more expensive for customers of rental outfitters and defeat some of the purposes of the regulations by encouraging them to paddle on their own without any safety briefing or explanation of other important issues.
Businesses renting paddlecraft in TN are already paying a wide array of taxes and fees levied by various federal, state and local governments, which include sales, personal property, property, and other taxes. TWRA is introducing very significant new burdens in the proposed rules to include permit fees, inventory fees, and launch fees and a one-year permit, which may not be renewed under certain conditions. Many paddlesports businesses do not believe the proposed fee burden is sustainable.
Furthermore, the regulations are being introduced incrementally since there are plans for another round of river-specific regulations in the future. Those proposals are not included in these regulations. Therefore, we cannot adequately comment on the current regulations without knowing the full scope of the proposals including subsequent new burdens that will accompany the currently proposed regulations. For these reasons, we oppose the proposed regulations on paddlecraft rental businesses filed by TWRA with Secretary of State on November 21, 2018.
The process for creating these rules, which have a great bearing on access for the public and the future of many long-standing, responsible paddlesports businesses, was flawed. TWRA created an Advisory Committee, which we supported. However, the two meetings of the Committee were often dominated by individuals clearly hostile to paddlesports activities who influenced the proceedings with anecdotal and questionable information. Regulatory proposals were provided just prior to the start of the first meeting, which gave no time for careful consideration with very little advance notice of the meeting. We believe that a more appropriate way to address legitimate issues would be to study the issues and perceived problems and work with users to diminish conflicts and congestion without overbearing regulations.
Given the number of problems, these proposed rules and regulations should be withdrawn and a study conducted testing best practices and non-regulatory measures to reduce user conflicts and congestion at popular boat ramps, which we think will be more effective than the proposed regulations and fees. In the interim, TWRA may still issue a basic registration, provided the operating requirements are minimal and the renewal is automatically provided as we suggest.
In general, we do not believe the purposes of the proposed regulations can be fully carried out, to the extent that the issues cited are even relevant, by only regulating commercial paddle craft operators. A significant but undetermined portion of the use on most rivers and lakes is generated by unregulated paddlers and fishermen. Businesses renting powerboats and jet skis are not even subject to regulations like those proposed for paddlesports businesses. In the absence of regulations on other users, the focus and intensity of regulations on commercial paddlesports outfitters are likely to be disproportionate to the impacts of their operations.
The Tennessee Paddlesports Association supports responsible, shared use of the state waters and will work with other users and landowners to resolve perceived issues in a collegial manner.