Paddling season is upon us: Check out the web

MichPaddler decided to check out a few things on the web and finds some good tips for those paddling in Michigan waters. It is amazing the amount of information and websites out there, both current and past. And this doesn’t even count the Facebook and Twitter sites from all the paddling community.

So here it goes, just a start. Send me your favorite ones and I shall update the list.

You might sense a safety theme here. Anyone have access to the parody video comparing a life vest unworn to a bullet proof vest unworn?  Your kayak probably doesn’t need that life jacket strapped to it.

Thanks to a reader: Wonderful safety site:

MSU extension and safety on Michigan Waters

Michigan Water Trails, ever expanding. Find out about water trails, maps, weather, paddling safety, so much more ….

Detroit News and need for safety

Pure Michigan Blog on kayaking adventures

Kayak Safety tips, not just for Fall Color tours. Some of that water is really cold now! Also has links on paddling in Northern Michigan

From farther afield:

Lifejacket use recommendations from the State of Washington. As they say, it’s only a life jacket if you wear it!

A video on why to wear. Life jackets float, you don’t! Deals with white water. But think all waters, please.



MI State Waterways Commission April Mtg Minutes and Resolutions

You can find the Draft Minutes for April 25, 2018 at the website:

There is discussion of waterways safety and proposed registration. Letters were submitted about the proposal. Please see the minutes for more information.


The next meeting will be held June 8, 9:30 am,

Room 317, City Hall,

301 Washington Avenue

Bay City, Michigan

The Agenda of the next meeting on June 8, 2018 is posted at

Be sure to send your Commission a letter if you would like to have a voice.

MSWC Commissioner:  Dennis Nickels  email:

Other commissioners contacts are at the website:,4570,7-350-79137_79763_79917_84801-277375–,00.html

Here are a couple of Resolutions to check out:

More on this one in anther post.

Here are the Grants Applications being passing on for approval or not for FY2018 under Waterways Grant-in-Aid program:

FY 2018 Grant-in-Aid Waterways Projects applications

You can find the 2017 Waterways Grants Applications results here:

Other meetings that are scheduled:

Aug. 30 (meeting) 8:30 a.m. – noon Ontonagon Village Offices, Village Council Room
315 Quartz St. Ontonagon, MI 49953
Oct. 5 (meeting) 8:30 a.m. – noon Mount Clemens: TBD
Dec. 7 (meeting) 9 a.m. – noon Lansing: TBD


Need for statistics on drownings involving paddle vessels, says reader

From a reader:

“Are there public statistics on drownings involving paddle vessels on inland lakes? I take exception to the statements made by Dennis Nickels in this article:

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, of the 94 drownings in 2017 on the Great Lakes, NINE involved paddlesports. In 2017, 38 bicyclists died while pursuing that recreational activity.

Nickels also claimed it was never the intent of the commission to institute the tax in 2018, when the commission clearly stated to the contrary in its 1/3/2018 letter.”

The reader continued on with a plea for accurate information and reporting on paddle sports.

Howes on MI’s paddle tax grab


Contribution from a reader:

Hi MichPaddler – could you please share this link? Nice mini podcast by a Detroit News journalist who actually practices rescues and wears his life jacket!

As the intro article states:

This week, Howes says the halting campaign in Lansing to tax the state’s kayaks, canoes and paddleboards through registration fees might get more traction if the proceeds would be used to fund paddling safety programs. But so long as the effort looks like nothing more than a money grab by the Great Lakes State, it’s likely to remain dead in the water.

Kayak registration fee tossed overboard by Senate panel, says

Mlive. com published the following report on April 25th

The Michigan State Waterways Commission met Wednesday April 25th and the minutes of that meeting will be posted as soon as available.  The next meeting of the Commission will be in Bay City the morning of June 7 or 8. Keep checking their website to stay up to date and see the Agenda for the next meeting. Here is the link



Observations of a Michigan Small-Scale Boat Manufacturer

The MSWC is an advisory body, not an enforcement body. They have no public education arm.  Most water safety instruction is currently done by private (e.g. Power Squadron, etc.) or quasi-governmental agencies like the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and for the paddling community, by paddling groups. In the field and on the water, enforcement is done primarily by local and county policing agencies, whose funding support comes in large part from grants.  Nowhere in the currently proposed legislation is there explanation for how these educating and law enforcement organizations will receive funding. A question remains whether this will mean increasing state revenues and then imposing unfunded mandates on local and county governments.
Does anyone have any idea how many canoes, kayaks, rowing boats and paddleboards are currently out there?  How many people have bills of sale still in their possession? Current registration requires bills of sales indicating that the 6% state sales taxes have been paid or those taxes will have to be paid upon registration, yet more funds for the state that will not fund safety or facilities.
How many scout troops, camps and private individuals have multiple boats?  I would guess that the average paddler owns 3 to 5 boats and the vast majority of these boats do not have serial numbers affixed to them, raising questions for registration and owners of multiple boats.


(rec’d 3/14/2018 for posting)

Notes from a call with Michigan State Waterways Commissioner Dennis Nickels on March 8, 2018

As an avid paddler on Michigan lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes, I sought to get more information in the issue of mandatory registration of paddlecraft and related aspects and legislation.  On March 8, 2018, in a phone call with Commissioner Nickels, I was able to get further information, as well as pose a few questions.  I thank the Commissioner for his time, knowledge, and thoughts.  The discussion centered around MSWC Resolution 01-2018-02 .

Below is my summary of key points:

  • The MSWC is a body comprised entirely of volunteers appointed by the governor and is an advisory body to the DNR. It reports to the Director of the DNR. They seek to align the needs of law enforcement, first responders, and the customer (boaters, paddlers etc.).
  • The resolution was a response to information received from private and public sector agents on the rapid growth of paddle craft use on Michigan and Great Lakes waters and the increasing need for law enforcement to respond to safety problems of abandoned/vacant boats, paddlers in danger, and search and rescue. Commissioner Nickels also mentioned the rise in paddler/motorboat conflict, especially concerning parking facilities. Neither the Commissioner nor I know of any studies done to understand these issues. Boating industry estimates that paddle craft will reach 50% of the boats on Michigan waters soon if not already the case.
  • The Commissioners debated/discussed the idea of including a mandatory use of PFDs (each paddler or passenger required to wear the PFD, not just have them somewhere accessible to them). It was decided that it was too controversial and might undermine the possibility of other measures getting enacted. He cited the legislation making it optional to wear motorcycle helmets as an example of the legislature going in the opposite direction of requirements for safety.
  • Cost of registration. The 2018 resolution includes “up to $10 annually” for registration fee. There is the possibility that legislators might reduce that fee.
  • I raised the allocation of the revenues gained through the collection of registration fees as a key point of discussion and confusion among paddlers. See discussion below.
  • Coverage: As indicated in Point 4 of resolution all rigged hulled kayaks and canoes will be covered under this, regardless of length.  Point 5 covers paddleboards and only those 8 feet or longer are covered.
  • Regarding the idea of reduced cost after the first boat (kayak, canoe, paddleboard) is registered, the Commissioners felt that there was no precedent for that, as no other watercraft registration enables a reduced fee for owners of multiple craft. Thus, it was not included.
  • The Commissioners are aware of the costs (time and money) of doing registration through the Secretary of State offices and would like DNR and Legislature to consider enabling Points of Sale options as currently exist with Fishing Licenses, Hunting Licenses, etc.
  • There is complementary legislation (2018 SIB 0736) and Joint Resolution regarding 2018 SIB 0273 that can be found at ). These are moving through the MI legislation, sponsored by Senator Tom Caspersen (from Escanaba) regarding the Michigan Natural resources Trust Fund with revenues gained from royalties received from public lands and other sources.  After the endowment of the MNR Trust Fund reaches $800 million, the overflow would go to the MI State Parks Endowment Fund, according to this legislation. These funds have and are being used to make grants to communities, including purchase of land for parking and landing, etc.  Check the proposed legislation for more details (lots of them). (There is the following that details SB0280 that appears to be the bill moving forward. The bill’s sponsors are all from the Republican Party. Info on status of that is at ).
  • The Commissioners have met with Legislators and found enthusiasm for investments in water trails and other paddling facilities, as indicated below. As the 2018 MSWC resolution indicates, raising the costs for all watercraft registration is to be considered. Invasive species funding is also under consideration, based on Minnesota experience with this, issuing special stickers (similar to MI Recreation Pass for vehicles) or including within cost of registration. It is not addressed in this 2018 MSWC Resolution.

Regarding the allocation of funds, I view this as a key issue among the other paddlers that I have spoken with, and communicated that to the Commissioner. He indicated that there is separate legislation that concerns the use of revenues for licenses and registration of watercraft.  the Commissioner indicated that of those watercraft revenues collected, 50% must go to watercraft safety as administered by law enforcement agencies. The other 50% goes to watercraft facilities and needs, as administered by the DNR. The DNR Grants program is funded this way, for example. The legislation moving forward under Point 9 above also addresses funding issues for DNR activities/investments.

Boating access sites currently receive funding from several sources, including taxes on fuel pumped at the 19 state operated marinas and 20 grant-in-aid marinas. Many serve as Safe Harbor sites along the Great Lakes. This funding is in addition to a portion of the boat registration fees collection and grants.

The Commissioner spoke very favorably about a recent presentation by the Michigan Trails Initiative concerning water trails. The commissioners jointly view these efforts as important with local partners and municipalities, but need funding sources for grants and other initiative for DNR to move these initiatives forward.  This would include things like improvements to rustic drop sites for paddlecraft, with buying land, arranging parking, possible latrines/outhouses, etc. Improving or expanding current parking to incorporate needs of both paddlers and motorboat users might be included. Also in demand is the increase in availability of assisted launch facilities for paddlecraft.

These notes were developed by me, as a Michigan paddler and citizen. I take responsibility for errors of interpretation. C. Donovan March 14, 2018

Key Reasons for and Perspectives on Registration (revised 3/18/2018)

In developing this resolution the Waterways Commission has identified the following key areas of concerns:

  1. The Commission believes there is a real safety problem with paddle recreation but they have no money to spend on it.  There are increasing search and rescue operations needed for paddlecraft as the numbers of these boats rises rapidly. There are points of conflict between paddlecraft users and motorboat users and investments are needed to resolve these conflicts. Paddlers, therefore, need to pay fees for registration so DNR/MSWC have money to spend on paddling safety and enhancements.  MSWC Commisioner indicated that 50% goes to law enforcement for safety issues and the other 50% would go to grant funds related to waterways needs, but there is nothing in the Resolution to guarantee that.


  • The fee-paying public deserves to know what the legislation and regulations mandate for use of the funds collected and who makes the decisions as to the investments and use of funds. The public should see the information on this and know in advance of passing a bill how funds will be allocated and the proposed budget defining the expenditure of the funds raised.
  • There are many volunteer/non-profit organizations that support boater safety education. The extent and impact of this ought to be considered and augmented. Allocation of grant funds to these efforts should be part of the use of funds, if registration moves forward.
  • Skill development, knowing one’s limitations and choosing paddling venues accordingly and wearing a properly rated and fitted PFD are the key ingredients for a safe and fun paddling experience. For most paddle craft simply having a flotation device on board does not assure its availability in a crisis.  Organizations aimed at serving paddler interests provide a substantial resources (human and financial) for improving safety.
  1. Law enforcement agencies state they must follow-up reports of unoccupied kayaks floating in the water.  Law enforcement want to be able to identify these recovered boats to learn the circumstance and determine if someone is missing.


  • A boat registration law is not necessary to accomplish boat identification in case if loss. Paddlers could easily register their hull numbers, if known, on a website law enforcement could use.
  1. The Commission envisions installing and upgrading existing boat launch sites, however, it has no money to issue grants for organizations to improve them or install ADA launches where they may be needed. Nor does it have funds to allocate to water trails initiatives.


  • For most paddlers the existing launches may be quite adequate.  Improvements are needed but it generally occurs at the municipal level.  Paddlers only occasionally share power boat facilities and do not require the same shore infrastructure. Investing in dredging, for example, does not improve paddlecraft operations.
  • Where is the supporting data that relates to paddler needs, facility use and anticipated revenue and expenditures? What are the priority locations on Michigan waterways that will be targeted for enhancements? It will be important to identify areas in which there are current conflicts between paddle craft and motorboats and determine actions.

Other Points for Consideration:

  • Most paddlers own different boats for different water environments. Frequently one or another boat is selected for use while the others remain in storage.  Given the recommended fee per boat, multiple paddle craft owners may experience a disproportionate fee burden compared to the registration costs for the one-motorboat owners across the state.
  • The design of the registration system should not use the current system with Secretary of State. Currently, discretionary registration of  kayak, canoe or paddleboard includes the need to show a receipt and payment of sales taxes to register the paddlecraft. Sales tax will have to be paid with registration if no evidence of such payment is available. A serial number was required. A waiver can be signed, but leaves open the State to attempt to collect sales taxes later. (Registration cost for 3 years was $9 for a 12′ kayak in 2017. Decal is 3″ x 2.5″).  The WSMC has discussed using point-of-sales methods (such as used for fishing licenses) but there is nothing in writing to indicate that.
  • Administering, monitoring and enforcing the registration of the myriad of canoes, kayaks and SUPs required by the proposed legislation implies a substantial bureaucratic overhead that may not be cost effective in the end. If local officials must enforce this, where are the funds to cover that?
  • An appropriate and diverse representation of the paddlecraft, sport and recreation community ought to be brought together with agency representatives to consider, in a deliberative procedure, as to the need for fee-based revenue essential to the associated recreational, health and safety environmental and economic interests. If it is concluded that additional revenue is necessary, subsequently, this body ought to consider revenue generating and administrative mechanisms that are compatible with the needs and interests of all stakeholders. While some consultation has been done, more is needed.

Ideas and Information sourced from various paddlers. C. Donovan provided info on current discretionary registration in MI.  March 6, 2018