Thursday, January 29, 2015

Water Access Could Be Restricted In Washington State

 
It was raining hard on the South Fork of the American River. We unloaded our kayaks from our parked car just off the Highway 49 and walked a crooked path to the river. Under the bridge we escaped the rain and found easy access to the river. We were soon paddling down the river.
It is a scene I have done time and time again. Using the bridge right-of-away to gain access to the waterway. Across the country, informal access sites are used by paddlers and fisherman along roads and within bridge right-of-ways to get to the lake and stream in a few simple steps.
That all might change in Washington State with a bill underway this legislative session that would severely limit access to the state's waterways. The bill introduced by Representative Larry Haler from Richland,  would prohibit water access on small parcels of public land unless the managing agency provides a formal river access site and parking lot. Under proposed legislation, public land managers would be required to post signage that public access to the water is prohibited on small parcels of public land without formal parking that currently provide access to our state's waterways. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor.
 I support development of river access and designated parking sites along the waterway's corridor where use levels are a practical investment. I have used many public access sites over the years enjoying their benefits. However, I still feel this would hamper and limit many paddling experiences along rivers without access points and fear it might be used as precedent for other states restricting water access.
"Diligence and recurring defenses of our freedoms that we often take for granted is a never ending responsibility of the many, not just the few." posted Californian kayaker Dan Crandall on Facebook, "Those fights can manifest themselves in places you might never expect, and therefore you must be prepared to recognize the signs when they appear. I'd call this a sign to be noticed before the battleground grows. Let your Washington state friends know."
 
The full text of the bill is below:
 
 House Bill 1056:
 
AN ACT Relating to restricting the use of certain parcels of public land to access a public body of water; adding a new section to chapter 79.02 RCW; and prescribing penalties.
 
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
 
NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. A new section is added to chapter 79.025RCW to read as follows:
 
(1) If a parcel of public land is one-quarter of a square mile or less in size and is adjacent to a body of public water and the land is or can be used to access the body of public water, the governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must provide adequate public parking for persons utilizing the land to access the water.
 
(2) If adequate public parking is not provided, using the land to access the water for other than a governmental purpose is prohibited. If adequate public parking is not provided, the governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must post a warning sign for the public that clearly shows that using the land to access the water is prohibited and states the sanction for a violation of the prohibition.
 
(3) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.