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Senators Vermont Legislators Consider Fees for Non-motorized Vessels

According The Associated Press

Representative Robert Helm, Republican—Castleton, (Chairman of the Vermont House Fish and Wildlife Committee) and Representative Michael C. Vinton, Democrat—Colchester, are considering legislation that would have owners of canoes and other non-motorized watercraft pay a fee to use their crafts on Vermont waters.

Both legislators agree that users of non-motorized boats benefit from the state’s management of the waters and place a burden on those waters. However, they disagree on how to make these users pay.

Rep. Helm wants the state to require $10 permits for canoes, kayaks and paddle boats and plans on introducing legislation for a $10 conservation sticker. Helm believes that this group of users is not paying for the privilege to use the resources and they need to pay their share. Revenues could be used to improve access to the rivers, as well as enforcement where water uses clash. One of Helm’s concerns is the need to regulate those businesses renting canoes and sending them down the river all at once.

Rep. Vinton wants to require owners of all non-motorized boats to register their craft at a cost of $15 a year. He believes that non-motorized vessels should be registered because they use the access areas as much as power boats.

Registrations of non-motorized vessels could bring an additional 50-60,000 registrations, releasing federal matching funds.

Burlington paddlers advocate, Kevin Rose, was not surprised and has seen similar efforts on the national level. He has seen conflict at Lake Champlain ramps between fishermen and non motorized vessel operators. In the past VT Fish and Wildlife, who maintained access, posted signs either allowing or prioritizing only fishing activities. This policy is now longer in effect.

Although Rose understands the need for non motorized vessels to share the cost of access, he is concerned about organizations that provide paddling rentals or tours. Depending on the cost of the registration it could have a serious impact on these organizations. Rose hopes that if a fee is adopted that the money goes to increase and improve access.

In particular Rose is concerned about a movement in Burlington to exclude non motorized vessesls from Burlington Harbor.