Editorial: We Need A High-Water Speed Limit


HB 1360, a bill to allow the Department of Safety to establish an emergency maximum speed limit on lakes for up to ten days due to weather or environmental conditions, will be heard in Concord this Wednesday, February 7.

NH LAKES supports it, we support it, and we hope you will support it after reading on.

Anyone who was on the lake last year—and the year before, for that matter—knows we are stuck in a pattern of high-water events. Days of heavy rain filled the rivers that feed the lake, and the rivers repeatedly filled the bays to raise the lake level.

The new dam allows the state to act quickly to adjust the flow of water leaving the lake at the Ossipee River, but it can only do so much. The lake system acts as a kind of bowl and has only one exit. That means we will always have some measure of flooding.

A little bit of flooding is an annoyance, but a lot of flooding—the type we have been having—is environmentally damaging. Powerboats operating during high-water make things a lot worse.

NH LAKES says it was inundated with inquiries from shoreline property owners expressing concern about damaging wakes during flooding last year. So were we.

The complaints we received about tubing, waterskiing and wake boating during serious high-water events were angry and disturbing, made worse by the realization that no one had the power to do anything about it.

Documented instances of bad actors on our lake involved lake property owners and, sadly, one of the lake’s long-time businesses. As is so often the case these days, pleas by property owners to the offenders that their actions were damaging docks and boats and threatening swimmers were met with a shrug.

Flood conditions are site-specific. Not just from lake to lake, but in our case from bay to bay. The state has water level gauges at the Bearcamp River and the Ossipee River that provide an end-to-end view of our lake conditions at all times, meaning emergency speed limits can be targeted.

Moreover, communicating with lake property owners and boaters used to take days but now takes hours through social media and lake association email lists. That creates the potential for rapid public awareness.

In past flood events, the state has called on boaters to voluntarily stay home or reduce to headway speed. That hasn’t worked. What may work is a required temporary emergency speed limit that can be communicated in a timely way through online media.

There is a lot about this that still needs to be fleshed out, but HB 1360 would start the ball rolling by providing a framework for improving safety and environmental protection for our lake and others by allowing the Department of Safety to make the call to lower the speed limit when conditions warrant.

First, HB 130 needs to pass out of the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee and advance in the House. That requires lake organizations, lake residents and boaters to take a few minutes to let the Committee know you support giving the Department of Safety this new responsibility. A few clicks is all it takes, and the instructions are shown below.

Register Your Support Online

Go to https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

Fill in your personal information.

Select the hearing date: February 7, 2024

Select the committee: House Resources, Recreation and Development

Select the time of the hearing and the bill number: 2:00 p.m. HB 1360

Select: I am a member of the public

Select: I am representing myself

Indicate your position on the bill: I support this bill

You will have the option to upload a letter of support or paste in a statement of support. A few sentences about why you support the bill can make a big impact.

Review and submit.


1 comment

  1. tj236 4 months ago February 7, 2024

    Unfortunately, this bill is a wide net that will unfairly affect many boating activities that do not produce damaging wakes.
    In recent years activities such as wake surfing and wakeboarding have increased significantly. These larger boats used for surfing sports are designed to produce big wakes. Fishing boats, ski boats and jet skis do not produce the oversize wakes that can cause damage to docks and shoreline. It is overly restrictive to mandate speed restrictions on these boating activities. A more realistic option is to expand no wake zones where applicable.
    I also see this as the government getting one step closer towards implementing speed control on open water boating.


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