Connecticut River Task Force to promote safe boating over Labor Day weekend

Local News

BOSTON (Mass.gov) – To ensure public safety and marine compliance along the Connecticut River during the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, the Connecticut River Task Force will have an increased presence on the water, and is urging boaters to take important steps to safely and responsibly ride and operate boats, including wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) and traveling at reasonable speeds at all times.

The Connecticut River Task Force, a consortium of state and local law and federal enforcement agencies participating in a joint Task Force, is focused on ensuring residents and visitors are able to enjoy land and maritime activities on the Merrimack River in a safe, responsible manner. Task Force members will be active throughout the holiday weekend.

“We are grateful for our partnership with law enforcement agencies in the communities along the Connecticut River to protect public safety and ensure Massachusetts residents are able to enjoy the holiday weekend,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Colonel Shaun Santos. “The Task Force will have an increased presence on the water over Labor Day Weekend, and we look forward to collaborating with local police agencies to promote safe and responsible boating.”

The Task Force will also focus on enforcing the recent closure of Mitch’s Island. The Island, owned by a collection of private owners, the Kestrel Land Trust, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), was closed to the public on August 21, 2020 to address public safety, public health, and resource protection issues on the island. Between August 22-24, 2020, the Task Force, led by the Hadley Police Department, Massachusetts Environmental Police and a dozen local volunteers, gathered for a cleanup of the island. The island remains closed to the public during the holiday weekend.

The Task Force is composed of law enforcement and vessels from Easthampton, Hadley, Northampton, South Hadley and Chicopee along with the Massachusetts Environmental Police, United States Coast Guard, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. The group works collaboratively to enforce boating and watercraft violations, ensure the legal and safe operation of watercraft, and prevent trespassing and littering on islands and beaches along the Connecticut River. On land, the Task Force enforces parking rules and regulations, and deter general criminal activity.

The Connecticut River boasts a large recreational presence of motor vessels, paddle craft, water sports, campers and anglers. Safety should be a priority for everyone operating on the water as speed restrictions and private aids to navigation are there to protect those who share the river. 

Boaters are reminded that operating any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited. Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of public or private swimming areas. All boaters are urged to operate their vessels at reasonable speeds based upon existing conditions, including traffic density, weather, and visibility. For inland waters, operating at a speed greater than 45 mph is considered excessive.

Additionally, on August 14, 2020 the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs posted updated guidance for recreational boating and waterway activities in the Commonwealth. As part of the amended guidelines, all recreational crafts must remain a safe distance apart, and rafting-up more than three vessels is prohibited.

Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised by an adult. Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft. Children ages 12-15 must complete an approved boating safety course to operate a motorboat, children ages 16 and 17 must do so to operate a personal watercraft.

Boating safety ultimately starts onshore. Boaters should file a float plan with a friend or family prior to getting underway. Boaters are reminded that all boats are required to carry personal floatation devices and all passengers less than 12 years of age must be in a lifejacket whenever above decks while underway.

All boating accidents must be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police at (800) 632-8075.

These communities and law enforcement agencies wish everyone a happy and safe Labor Day and look forward to collaborating to ensure that the Connecticut River is a place for all to enjoy.

  • Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP)
  • Easthampton Police Department
  • Hadley Police Department
  • South Hadley Police Department
  • Northampton Police Department
  • Chicopee Police Department
  • Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
  • United States Coast Guard (USCG)
  • Northwestern District Attorney’s Office

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