Response to VT Digger Article on WaterSkiing vs. Rowing

You may have heard about the Great Hosmer Pond issue between the scullers and a water skier/camp owner.  Following are links to articles from Seven Days News and Vermont Digger regarding the issue at hand.

https://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/water-rights-scullers-vs-motor-boats-in-craftsbury/Content?oid=3445825

https://vtdigger.org/2017/07/16/pond-rule-change-could-favor-lawyers-power-boat-over-rowers/

What’s important to us is that the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) / Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has started Rule Making with their own process bypassing the Use of Public Waters Rules (UPWR) formerly the Use of Public Waters Policy.  ANR /DEC has been given the responsibility to manage user conflicts on Public Waters.  Why is this important to us?  Water skiing is considered a normal use under UPWR.  To limit water skiing or any other normal use (i.e. quiet use, fishing, etc) a petition must be submitted.  The Petition must explain what the Petitioner has done w/ other users to resolve any issues. Also a rule change needs to be submitted under the specific parameters of the rules (separation, day(s), time of day, speed).  Under UPWR, anyone who feels they want to limit or eliminate water skiing must file a Petition.   On Great Hosmer Pond no petition has been filed. If the ANR/DEC can go straight to Rule Making our rights to the water could easily be in jeopardy.   Under UPWR, a Petition would have to be filed with the Petitioner having to document that they contacted affected users and demonstrate what they did to try to resolve the issue under UPWR section 2 guidelines.  PLEASE READ the UPWR & email below that I sent to ANR/DEC.   The The UPWR can be found at vermont.gov/anr/dec   then click onto Lakes and Ponds on left and go to Quick Links for Use of Public Waters Rules.    You can help by bringing this issue to your local legislators by emailing and/or  calling them.  Go to vermont.gov on the right side of the page to elected officials.  Questions on this matter please call or email me.

Bruce Epstein
Green Mountain Water Skiers – President
CELL:  (802)272-5324
bruce@greenmountainwaterskiers.com

DEC Commissioner Boedecker, ANR Secretary Moore

The Green Mountain Water Skiers (GMWS) have been involved in public water issues for over thirty years.We have worked with the Legislature, other user groups, and individuals to amend state statutes, promote water ski safety, and help resolve conflicts on our public waters.  WE support multi recreational use while recognizing that any public body of water can not necessarily be available to all users all the time.  WE are proud to have been a major player in resolving the conflicts on Waterbury Reservoir that festered through several petitions starting in the late 80s.  The GMWS proposed the idea of Rule Options in a petition submitted to the Water Resources Board (WRB) under the Guidelines of the newly adopted Use of Public Waters Policy (UPWP) .  The Petition was submitted by a coalition of Recreational Users including the GMWS, Friends of Waterbury Reservoir, VT Bass Assoc., VT Personal Water Craft Assoc. and interested individuals.  The new Rules adopted under then Option 2 of the Petition greatly increased the 5 mph/ no wake zones of the Reservoir for quiet use while establishing the siting of 2 water ski courses.  The majority of the Reservoir remained high speed multi recreational use.  The resolution of the intricate user conflicts was made possible by the foresight of the WRB, which was a citizen board.  News of this was spread nation wide that water skiers & quiet users could resolve their differences in VT. 

On behalf of the GMWS, I attempted to contact Commissioner Bodecker’s office yesterday (7/24) about our concern with the Rule Making Procedures for the user conflict resolution on Great Hosmer Pond.  I was informed I could not discuss this subject with her, because the discussions were complete with the involved users. Any comments can only be done by email/letter.  I asked why our organization,which is an effected user group was never contacted?  I was told they could can not contact everyone and there was public notice made.    Comments:

(1)  The GMWS takes issue with the ANR for going to Rule Making w/o following the Use of Public Waters Rules established by State Statute and entrusted to the ANR for their management.  If the ANR proceeds to finalize Rule Making, this will set a  precedent that is potentially harmful to various users of our public waters.  WE believe this is a dangerous slippery slope that will lead to more conflicts and bad decision making.  The original UPWP was established based on the WRB outreach including public hearings held in several locations state wide.  It was the goal of the WRB UPWP “… to provide a basis for both avoiding when possible, and resolving when necessary, conflicts in the use of public waters in a comprehensive and integrated manner so that the various uses may be enjoyed in a reasonable manner, considering the best interests of both current and future generations of the citizens of the State and insuring that natural resource values of the public waters are fully protected.”   WE believe this document has stood the test to time and should not be bypassed  by a State Agency.    The GMWS considers this a breach of public trust.

(2)   Section 2.4 of the UPWR  requires “when establishing either general or specific rules for the use of public waters under 10 VSA Section 1424 the following persons and entities shall be consulted…”  The list includes affected user groups.  Our Organization has never been contact or consulted.  We have a well documented history of involvement on public water issues  for decades. 

(3)  The GMWS recommends the ANR discontinue their current Rule Making process.  We recognize ANR is trying to get the conflicting parties together to resolve their differences, but bypassing the Use of Public Waters Rules the ANR  has been entrusted to use  by establishing new Rule Making procedure is flawed  Public Policy.  The GMWS further recommends that ANR inform the conflicting parties that if they cannot come to a local solution among themselves, a Petition that proposes a specific rule change that fully complies with the provisions UPWR is the only option.  The affected parties should be informed that they are both at risk of being disappointed with the end result if they can not compromise by using the separation, time of day and/or days as tools to resolve their differences.  Different Options could also be provided by joint Petition that would then go to Public Hearing for a fair resolution. This would be very similar to what happened in Waterbury Reservoir.  The frame work for settling this matter has been well established for over 20 years.

Sincerely,
Bruce Epstein, President GMWS
CELL:  (802)272-5324
www.greenmountainwaterskiers.com

CC:  Hard copy Governor Scott

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