Background To Groundbreaking Open Water Legislation

Background To Groundbreaking Open Water Legislation

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

This Wednesday, the New Hampshire Legislature passed legislation to provide the right-of-way to swimmers in the open water.

This reasonable, yet intriguing, act of a political body to recognize the needs of swimmers in the open water when they encounter boats, Jetskiers, water-skiing, windsurfers, ferries and other watercraft was the result of efforts of many people, including passionate open water swimming coach Greg Whitman.

During my work as a legislative aide for the New Hampshire Senate, this legislation was brought to my attention. I but became involved with it on a personal level based on my passion for open water swimming. I am involved in swimming at all levels,” explained Greg. “The Senate passed the bill in January and the House passed it on Wednesday, completing its journey through the two bodies.” We asked Greg about the political background of this groundbreaking legislation.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What prompted you to work towards this legislative bill?

Greg: I first became involved with open water swimming while attending the University of Kansas in the 1990s. At the time, Coach Kempf conducted a significant number of our early season practices at Lonestar Reservoir and Clinton Reservoir. After graduation, I embarked on a career as a collegiate swim coach serving as an assistant at Southern Illinois University’s under long-time USA Swimming national open water swimming coach Rick Walker. Having been a resident of New Hampshire for the past few years, I have the pleasure of enjoying the beautiful lakes New Hampshire. For example, Squam Lake and Newfound Lake are both pristine and epitomize the natural beauty of New Hampshire. Squam Lake is dotted with islands that make great destinations for open water swimming adventures. Squam Lake is a large lake that is shared with all types of open water enthusiast, including kayakers canoeists, boaters (motorized/nonmotorized) and swimmers. The importance of this bill to insure the enjoyment and safety of all cannot be stressed enough.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What state senators and representatives were most helpful?

Greg: Senator Odell, the prime sponsor and member of the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, was responsible for bringing forth the idea of including swimmers and kayakers under the right of way protections in the form of SB362. Senator Fuller Clark, the chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, ensured SB362 was not taken lightly and given the full consideration of the committee. Senator Bradley, a co-sponsor and member of the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, provided thoughtful questions which guided the committee to make an informed decision.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What were some of the political or legislative obstacles?

Greg: I can rarely say this, but none. This bill was surprisingly easy to get through both bodies of the legislature. I believe this speaks to the character of the people of New Hampshire, as New Hampshire is truly a state dedicated to the outdoor lifestyle.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Was there any resistance for other constituencies?

Greg: No, one other group came and testified.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are the chances of being signed into law by the Governor?

Greg: SB362 passed both the Senate and the House on voice votes and both the Senate and House committees unanimously. It is a rare occurrence that the Governor wouldn’t signing a bill in to law with that history.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What other plans do you have to help the open water swimming community?

Greg: I will always be an ambassador of the sport. I am hopeful this legislation can be used as model legislation in other states.

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