Narrow Passage

ALBANY – A bill that recently passed the state Assembly could cause major problems in Chautauqua County if passed by the Senate, according to Assemblyman Andrew Goodell.

Goodell, R-C-I-Chautauqua County, told The Post-Journal the Assembly recently passed a bill which would require all boaters to take a boater safety course before hitting the water. Even if boaters had taken safety courses in other states, they would still be required to take the course in New York.

“It would basically shut down all of our fishing tournaments and other boating activities that involve experienced boaters from outside New York state,” Goodell said. “If that bill were to ever become law and we would have a fishing tournament, people who are very capable and experienced boaters from Ohio and Pennsylvania would come here. Unless they took the written safety course, we would arrest them when they went out on the lake.”

The legislation, which is sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, and Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, would require boaters of mechanically propelled vessels to obtain safety certificates beginning at age 18. Boaters under the age of 18 would be required to be with an adult over the age of 18 who has taken the safety training.

Goodell argued that boater safety is something learned from experience, not by studying a textbook for a written examination.

“It’s something you learn by being with an experienced boater and exercising basic common sense,” Goodell said. “Unfortunately, sometimes, I get the sense that my New York City legislators think there are dotted lines floating somewhere in the middle of the water to direct traffic. That’s simply not the case.”

Aside from adding an additional cost to taxpayers, Goodell said the county’s tourism industry would suffer as well, costing businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Let’s say there is a boater from Erie, Pa., that wants to take his boat up to Dunkirk Harbor for a great dinner at one of our local restaurants, or to Barcelona,” he said. “They could drive their boat all the way up to the state line. Once they cross over to spend their money in Chautauqua County, they would be subject to being arrested.”

Although he said there was a substantial amount of opposition in the Assembly, the bill did pass and rests in the hands of the state Senate.

“The level of opposition will make it unlikely that it will ever pass the Senate,” Goodell said.

If the bill passes the Senate, Goodell said the only hope would be to petition Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repeal the law.