Reprinted by courtesy of the Nashua Telegraph
Concord — February 3, 2005 — The popular summer pastime of “rafting” – boating’s equivalent of a tailgate party – on the state’s lakes would be banned by a bill before the state Senate. Rafting is when boats congregate on the water, sometimes involving as many as 150 boats.
Rep. Mike Whalley, R-Alton, told the Senate Transportation and Interstate Cooperation Committee on Wednesday he co-sponsored the bill after a constituent complained that about a dozen rafters were blocking access to his dock on Lake Winnipesaukee.
“I strongly believe lakes are held in trust for all citizens,” he said. “This is not an attempt to privatize water in front of anybody’s home.”
Whalley said rafters already are prohibited from congregating at 10 or 11 areas on the lake. He said banning rafting on other lakes would keep problems from developing elsewhere.
“I did not want to eliminate it only on Lake Winnipesaukee because it might drive them to other lakes and ponds,” he said.
Whalley said he isn’t against people enjoying the lake if they don’t infringe on others’ rights to navigate the same waters. But he said rafters typically congregate in coves out of the wind and away from boat traffic, which increases congestion.
The navigation problem could be resolved if boats could not congregate in numbers and were separated by 50 feet.
Current law bans rafting in three areas of Lake Winnipesaukee. The Department of Safety banned rafting in other areas after residents petitioned them to do so.
State law defines a raft as two or more boats congregated together. However, the law also defines rafting in prohibited areas as three or more boats congregating less than 50 feet apart.
Whalley said he did not intend to prohibit two boats from tying up together.
James Howard of Gilford objected that current rules are adequate because they allow people to petition the state to ban rafting in specific areas. Howard said state Marine Patrol officers also can tell rafters to move away from a dock if they are blocking access.