Pursuit of kayak registration fees falls short

The Michigan State Waterways Commission recommendation that kayaks, canoes and other recreational paddle vessels should be registered has sunk after making waves in the Michigan Legislature, with House and Senate resolutions formally opposing the proposed registration fee. Pictured, Kayakers explore the Lake Superior waters at the base of the Pictured Rocks Cliffs in Alger County. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The Michigan State Waterways Commission will not be pursuing registration fees for recreational canoes, kayaks and other paddle vessels at this time, according to a press release from state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

“Any registration requirement and fee must be implemented by the Legislature and because of the vast opposition to their recommendation, MSWC recently announced that it will no longer be pursuing any type of registration or fee on paddle crafts at this time,” Schmidt said in a press release.

The Michigan State Waterways Commission had passed a resolution in February recommending legislation requiring a registration fee for canoes, kayaks and other paddle vessels, which are currently exempt from registration fees when used recreationally.

According to the resolution, the fee would apply to all rigid-hulled kayaks and canoes, as well as all paddle boards 8 feet or longer, at a rate not to exceed $10 annually.

The proposed registration fee for these crafts was intended to help with waterway safety and funding issues, a Jan. 3 document from the waterways commission states.

According to the document, the registration and fees for these vessels would provide a way to identify vessel owners, with the aim of expediting search and rescue missions and identifying rightful owners of paddle vessels.

“Countless hours are being expended investigating reports of unmanned or distressed watercraft. First responders must determine whether they are tasked with a search and rescue mission or simply chasing down a watercraft that has blown off the beach or someone’s dock,” the document states. “In any case they must respond to each report only to find a vessel that lacks any documentation as to how many persons were onboard or contact information for the owner. These responses most often involve multiagency resources at significant cost and distraction from other mandated duties.”

The funds from the registration fees would also have provided a “sustainable funding source” for the Water Trails Initiative, increase funding for watercraft safety agencies and education, and help with continued enhancement of launch sites to improve paddle sport access, officials said.

However, some legislators felt the registration fee for these crafts would hinder recreational opportunities in Michigan.

“Canoeing, kayaking and other watersports are incredibly popular in my district,” Schmidt said in a press release. “Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are home to some of the most beautiful waterways in the world. Enjoying the water is a way of life where I am from and I do not support adding a fee that would hinder both a generations-long tradition and our state’s economy.”

The waterways commission proposal led to Senate and House resolutions formally opposing the registration fee for paddle vessels.

Senate Resolution 153 was placed on the order of resolutions April 26, when it was reported favorably with one substitution after being referred to the Senate Committee on Tourism and Outdoor Recreation in late April.

In a press release, Sen. Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who sponsored Senate Resolution 153, said “imposing an additional tax on people who want to go outdoors, get some fresh air and enjoy these resources is completely unnecessary.”

Schmidt, who co-sponsored the resolution with several other legislators, said he was glad to support it.

“I was happy to join my colleagues in supporting Senate Resolution 153 which formally opposes any effort from the MSWC toward implementing a new fee or registration on such vessels,” Schmidt said.

House Concurrent Resolution 22, which also formally opposed the proposed registration fees, was adopted by the House Tuesday.

“I’m proud to lead the effort in opposing added annual costs for families,” said Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, who introduced the resolution and serves as chair of the House Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

Officials from the Michigan State Waterways Commission could not be reached for comment.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.