‘No Enforcement’ on Valley River

“On summer afternoons, it’s like the Wild West,” Jim Dietz told the Valley Post. He’s head coach of the UMass women’s rowing team. Dietz was speaking about motor boats on the Connecticut river in Massachusetts. His rowing team is part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, which means it’s at the highest level of college sports. Before coming to UMass, Dietz worked for the U.S. Coast Guard in Connecticut for nine years.

“There’s absolutely no enforcement” of speed limits for motor boats on the river, he said. “Somebody is going to die” in a boating accident, he said. Motor boats routinely travel on the river at speeds comparable to cars travelling on a highway.

The speed limit on the river in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire is 45 miles per hour during day and 20 miles per hour at night. Boats must slow down to “headway speed” (about six miles per hour) when they are within 150 feet of the shore, “other vessels,” or a swimmer. That's according to:




The part of the river that flows between Vermont and New Hampshire is owned by New Hampshire.

In most states, including Massachusetts, a 10-year-old child can legally drive a motor boat at high speeds, Dietz said. Supposedly, enforcement of boat speed limits on the river is done by these two agencies:

-in Massachusetts: www.mass.gov/dfwele/dle/inland.htm

-in Vermont and New Hampshire: www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/nhsp/fob/marine-patrol/index.html

Oliver Brody is president of the Putney Rowing Club in Putney, Vermont, near Brattleboro. He said he has seen motor boats do high speed circles around rowers who are trying to enjoy peace and quiet.

Motor boats create a wave known as a “wake” that causes shoreline erosion, which causes trees to fall into the river. In general, the faster a boat goes, the more wake it creates.

As of 2004, water quality in the Connecticut river in Brattleboro was safe for swimming, according to:


More current Connecticut river water quality information is available via:


Many people swim in the Connecticut river. Experts say, don't swim within 24 hours of heavy rainfall due to pollution from runoff.

Motor boats cause global warming, lung cancer from smog, and acid rain. Sailboats, canoes, kayaks, and other non-motorized boats have none of these effects, but they do reduce obesity. Sailing on lakes in the Valley takes more skill than driving a motor boat. There is a sailing club at Spofford Lake in New Hampshire, which is between Brattleboro and Keene.

Motor boats are bad for fish, aquatic birds and other wildlife. That’s according to:


Motor boats cause noise which can result in adverse health effects on humans, according to a national group that's based in Montpelier, Vermont, the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse: www.NoNoise.org.


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