Imagine getting a speeding ticket 4 miles offshore!
Thursday, February 2, 2006
Boat speed limit bill discussion delayed
By COLIN MANNING
CONCORD — After being postponed in the crush of legislation going before N.H. Legislature this week, a bill requiring speed limits for boats on the state's waterways is expected to reach the floor of the House today, or certainly by the end of the week.
The House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee voted, 11-10, in October to recommend passage of the bill setting a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit during the day for boats on all state bodies of water — from Lake Winnipesaukee to Great Bay — and a 25 mph limit at night.
The 10 committee members who voted against the legislation, sponsored by Rep. James Pilliod, R-Belmont, will be pushing for an amendment that would set a "reasonable speed" standard rather than a set speed limit, based on existing conditions.
House Republican leadership is not taking a position on the measure, instead letting members "vote their conscience."
"The members have heard enough from different groups, so they have to vote the way they feel," House Speaker Doug Scamman said last week. "It certainly is an issue that has gotten a lot of attention."
The bill originally called for limits on Winnipesaukee, but was expanded to all bodies of water in the state. As amended, the bill also includes provisions to apply boating violations against residents' driving records.
Pilliod said he feels there is enough support to pass the legislation as is, but there is stiff opposition to the bill from fishermen as well as boating enthusiasts.
Rep. Michael Whalley, R-Alton, opposes the bill. While Whalley sells boats, he said does not "sell the type of boats people have been critical of."
The lawmaker, who lives on the big lake, said speed limits would be unenforceable and he contends that any problems on the state's lakes are due to an ignorance of state boating laws and courtesies.
"You can be reckless at 30 miles per hour or 20 miles per hour if you're too close to swimmers, too close to shore or too close to another boat," he said. "Speed is not the issue; it's the operation and the situation."
Pilliod said he would not support an elimination of speed limits. "The main thing is to give the Marine Patrol a marker, a standard, because we can't legislate good sense or courtesy," he said.
The New Hampshire Lakes Association is in full support of the bill and lobbied to have the bill apply to all bodies of water, not just Winnipesaukee.
Pilliod has said he favors an amendment exempting speed limit requirements up to five miles out on the ocean, which is technically within the state Marine Patrol's jurisdiction.
The bill is expected to draw spirited debate in the House. If it passes, the fighting will continue in the Senate.
N.H. Statehouse Writer Colin Manning can be reached at 603-226-3633 or statehousefosters.com.