New Hampshire is a small state with many lakes and ponds, in fact, there are over 1,000 bodies of water. Waterways over 10 acres are considered public waters and are regulated by the State. While many ponds and lakes are under 50 acres, there are a large number of navigable waters that support recreational boating and watersports. Lake Winnipesaukee is the state’s largest lake with a surface area of about 72 square miles covering 44,000 acres. It is a major draw for the State’s summer tourist economy.
New Hampshire holds its public bodies of water under what is called the “Public Trust Doctrine” ”for the use and benefit of the people of the state. But as is seen in all states, there are times when local groups can threaten open access to these public waters.
In New Hampshire there have been increasing complaints against wakes from ballasted boats and wake surfing. This has turned into a legislative commission to study wake boats, and legislation that sought to define wake boats for future bans and regulations.
Boaters who love wake sports and open access are banding together to help address conflicts through increased education, supporting enforcement of current laws, and through legislative advocacy to protect open access to public waters. We need all who love New Hampshire’s waters to join the effort.
What is happening on New Hampshire lakes?
- New Hampshire was the first state in the country to establish a state legislative commission to study ballasted boats “wake boats”. (HB 137 Wake Boat Commission)
- This committee met for over one year and involved many stakeholders including marine dealers, legislators, state regulators, manufacturer representatives, environmental groups, shorefront owners and wake sport enthusiasts.
- The Commission reported to the full Legislature assembly that increased education was needed for those involved in watersports. Legislation to include wake surfing under the towed watersports laws was recommended and ultimately passed and signed into law (HB 115). However, legislation to DEFINE wake boats (not a recommendation of the Commission) also came forward. This was a very controversial piece of legislation that represented the future of banning and restricting “wake boats” by definition (HB 229). The bill was defeated with the help from many boaters and many in the industry. Without the grassroots action, there could have been a different outcome.
- Stakeholders representing the marine industry and manufacturers continue to advocate for solving problems through education and enforcement as banning activities is not the answer. Efforts for NH’s Wake Responsibly campaign were underway during the 2021 summer.
We need your help!
Local support and grassroots action is critical to preserving access to these waterways. The residents and neighbors in the area, who know and love these lakes and rivers, are the best advocates for preventing unnecessary and damaging regulations.
Often these new restrictions and bans are announced with little discussion or presentation of data, putting boaters at a disadvantage. So the need for robust local networks is critical when we are made aware of these proposals. Boater engagement is key to defending and protecting our waterways.
How to get involved
There are many ways to participate and help our cause. First, reach out to your local Families for Boating representative for the latest information on current initiatives.
Attendance at various local gatherings and legislative meetings is important for showing support for boating and towed water sports, as well as keeping informed on the status of new regulations and restrictions.
Finally, and most importantly — Getting the word out! Tell your friends, family and neighbors about these proposals and encourage them to participate more so the local elected officials understand the impact of these initiatives.
We have many documents and instructions in our Resources section that can help get your local group organized and ready to speak up.