More than a decade of attempts to charge permits for paddle boats

Remember, you can object to paid paddle boat permits before the Tuesday morning meeting of the Boating Advisory Council.

For more than a decade, at least half its lifetime, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Boating Advisory Council (BAC) has been trying to find a way to charge permit fees for registration of non-motorized boats. Here’s the story so far, which will make clear there’s no reason to believe such efforts will stop. Also including not one, but two BAC members mysteriously serving longer than state-mandated term limits would seem to allow. Is it really about the children? Or is it about marinas, that paddle boaters don’t use? With a special appearance by the Florida state rep. who sponsored the law that expedited WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP.

BAC logo

The Boating Advisory Council (BAC) was created in 1994, and came under the authority of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in July 1999. Lawrence Dennis, Florida Times-Union, 3 December 2000 BOATING: Advisory Council loses two charter members.

The BAC’s Chair is Colonel Curtis Brown, Director of Law Enforcement with the FWC. State law actually requires the BAC’s Chair to be from FWC.

Same “Canoe or Kayak Enthusiasts” rep. beyond apparent term limits

State law specifies the origin of all 18 BAC members, most of whom are appointed by the governor, and: “Members appointed by the Governor may serve no more than two full consecutive terms.”

However, according to Paddle Florida’s “Non-motorized Vessel Subcommittee Notes” from 2006, two BAC members then, Becky Bragg and BIll Griswold, are still BAC members now, According to BAC’s own Members web page, as Ms. Rebecca Bragg representing Canoe or Kayak Enthusiasts and Mr. William Griswold representing U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary BAC slot is not among those appointed by the governor (so Chairman Griswold is apparently exempt from the two-term rule), but “one representative of canoe or kayak enthusiasts” is appointed by the governor. So how is Ms. Bragg still on the BAC 11 years after 2006, which is more than 3 * 2 = 6 years?

Those Paddle Florida 2006 notes show paddle boat registration and fees were on the BAC’s mind long before NMBWG was formed:

At the September 14, 2006 meeting in St. Petersburg, the subcommittee took the below actions:

Non-motorized Watercraft Registration—In short, the Non-motorized vessel subcommittee voted to not recommend registration to the BAC. But, the BAC can still do what they want, the sub-committee only advises. So the issue is not dead! Check and click on boating for details.

The sub-committee did vote and pass the action to recommend to the BAC that everyone in a non-motorized vessel must have a Boater Safety Card. The current boater safety card is obtained by either approved on-site classes or on-line (approx. 2 hour class). Class information is available at

Think of the children

If this action is pursued it would mean that anyone paddling a watercraft (holding a paddle) including kids would have to a boating card. There were loud gasps from the motorboat contingency at the meeting when it was mentioned that children paddle!

The outfitters could be affected by this tremendously. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, church youth groups, Royal Rangers, private and public school groups, County and City Summer Rec Programs will all have to make sure all their group participants have a boater safety card before planning any group activities. Tourists, in-state and well as out-of-state, will be required to have a boater card. No more spur of the moment paddle trips, no more walk-ins to your place of business, no more load up the family and hit the water for a day of relaxation. State Parks could be out of the paddle business. No card, no paddling. Only certain motorboaters are required to have cards, why make all the paddlers? Motorboaters including kids using motors under 10 horsepower aren’t required to have a boater safety card.The PWC contingency reported that all PWC riders are required and tourists have to take a “short” test. Maybe the PWC riders need boater education a lot more than paddlers?

Other discussion included what watercraft would not be included in registration. According to FWC, water toys such as rafts, tubes, and floats would not be included. Anything that bathers would use on the beach, waterway, or pool. But, The Coast Guard definition of a vessel includes anything used for transportation on water with exceptions such as seaplanes.

Monroe County has passed a resolution against the registration of non-motorized watercraft. Perhaps everyone should take this issue to their county commissions especially the counties with Manatee Protections Plans. See Monroe County Resolution.

Note: The Subcommittee made its final recommendations to the BAC on December 7th, 2006 in Key Largo. The subcommittee has be disbanded. The recommendations were: no registration of non-motorized vessels and that the operators of non-motorized vessels should be required to complete a boater education safety class.

The Paddle Florida link to the Monroe County resolution is broken. Maybe somebody can find that resolution; it should be interesting.

Marinas the real reason, back in in April 2006?

NMWB member Brack Barker says even earlier, at the Non-motorized Vessel Subcommittee meeting in April 2006:

Pro registration rep David Ray stated “we are losing our marinas and we need more matching federal dollars for the State to help us out”. Ergo, paddle community is low hanging fruit and they assume we are rich.

Every time we countered that they the motor boat community needed to be educated prior to hitting the water, they would balk and say ‘bad for tourism’. We would counter ‘so with us’, which then they would go off on a tangent, ‘you guys pollute’ meaning we go to the bathroom in the woods on our trips. To which we said ‘everyone goes to the bathroom’ and then it would devolve from there.

The 2006 sub-committee meetings made friends and enemies that are still in existence till today. But, as poorly as they were attended state wide by the paddle community, the FWCC and motor boat lobbyists saw that we were educated and would call them on their BS.

So already a decade ago BAC tried to get non-motorized boat registration, discovered even a subcommittee of its own members wouldn’t recommend that, and BAC disbanded that subcommittee. Only to try again starting in 2015 with the NMBWG.

Same “water-related environmental groups” rep. beyond apparent term limits

The BAC’s “one representative of water-related environmental groups” is David W. Childs, of law firm Hopping Green & Sams, which you may recall as the firm that represented Sabal Trail in WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP (October 2015). Hopping, Green and Sams is also the law firm that joined with the Pacific Legal Foundation as co-council to sue the USFWS over the recent downlisting of the endangered manatee. They also represent marine industry/boating groups.

Somehow I’m not following the logic of appointing an attorney for a firm that opposes water-related environmental groups as a representative of them. Also I don’t understand how it helps that his company bio says he represents “business and local government clients” and “Florida electric utilities”.

Interestingly, Childs is listed as a BAC member in the BAC March 11, 2011 Meeting Notes.

Those notes mentioned a report from a “Non-Motorized Boating Technical Assistance Group (TAG)“ about access, “nature-based tourism”, and safety, so apparently BAC created that TAG after it dissolved the Non-motorized Vessel Subcommittee and before it created the NMBWG.

But “one representative of water-related environmental groups” is among the BAC slots appointed by the governor and limited to two three-year terms. 2011 + 6 = 2017. How is Childs still on the BAC after more than two three-year terms?

Back on 6 November 2011, according to the Wayback Machine, Childs represented Marine Manufacturers and April Price represented Water-related Environmental Groups:

Member Name Group Represented
Mr. Spencer Anderson U.S. Power Squadrons
Ms. Rebecca Bragg Canoe or Kayak Enthusiasts
Colonel Jim Brown Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Mr. George Bryant Marine Special Events
Mr. David Childs Marine Manufacturers
Mr. Jeffery Gentry Department of Environmental Protection
Mr. Frank Gernert Scuba Diving Industry
Mr. Robert Gill Commercial Fishing Industry
Mr. William Griswold U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
Senator Dennis Jones Florida Senate
Ms. Jessica Koelsch Manatee Protection Interests
Mr. Mark Leslie Boating Public
Mr. Joseph Lewis Marine Industries
Mrs. JoAnn Mogle Boating Public
Mr. Jon Netts (2010) Florida Inland Navigation District
Representative Jimmy Patronis Florida House of Representatives
Ms. April Price Water-related Environmental Groups
Mr. Phillip Walters Commercial Vessel Owners/Operators

So Childs got re-appointed to a different BAC slot.

Rep. Patronis and WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP

Also, that’s the same Florida state Rep. Jimmy Patronis who sponsored the bill that became Florida law to make interstate natural gas pipelines eligible for the FERC process able to demand expedited legal hearings, which is why WWALS vs. Sabal Trail had that kind of hearing. See Dan Christensen, Miami Herald, 3 October 2015, Firm says Gov. Scott’s stake in pipeline project is ‘rrelevant’,

On Sept. 21, Sabal Trail’s attorneys at the Tallahassee law firm Hopping Green & Sams invoked a law that Scott signed in May 2013 that speeds up the permitting process for the construction of interstate natural gas pipelines.

Under the law, challenges to new pipelines must be heard within 30 days “regardless of whether the parties agree to the summary proceedings.” Before Scott signed the law, natural gas pipelines were specifically excluded from consideration for expedited review.

The bill (HB 999) that ultimately amended the law to include expedited review for natural gas pipelines was introduced by then State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Pensacola. and was overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature. Last October, Republican Scott appointed the term-limited Patronis to Florida’s Public Service Commission.

Childs’ bio at his law firm says:

  • Florida Boating Advisory Council (appointed by Governor Rick Scott, April 2016 — present)
  • Florida Boating Advisory Council (appointed by Governor Charlie Crist, March 2009 — June 2015)

His bio does not say where he was employed in 2011, but it does say:

  • Florida Water Quality Coalition, Board of Directors (2010 — present)

So I’d guess the Florida Water Coalition is Childs’ claim to being a “representative of a water-related environmental group.”

If you paddle, do you feel represented on the BAC?

What you can do

Next: from BAC to NMBWG, and more things you can do.

Meanwhile, you can comment to BAC before Tuesday.

Some background in other posts:

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!