While we have all been coping with the effects of the corona virus spreading across the country, including suspension of private river trips in Grand Canyon, GCPBA has delayed informing you about an important update to the Noncommercial River Trip Regulations issued by the Grand Canyon National Park River Permits Office. The update refers to the required throwable flotation device on each raft 16 feet or more in length as a piece of emergency safety equipment on a boat, to be used in the event of an unexpected swimmer in the river.
Previously, before this recent update, for many years the only device allowed to meet this need was a Coast Guard approved Type IV device, commonly referred to as a throw cushion. We have always felt that a throw cushion did not solve all of the needs a boater could encounter to rescue someone in the river during an emergency. In many situations with a swimmer a throw rope is more useful.
The Park has now issued a changed regulation that requires on boats one of two throwable flotation devices: either a throw cushion or a throw bag with rope. (However, they do not specify a minimum rope length. We recommend it be 75 feet).
GCPBA has worked for many years discussing this requirement with GCNP. We have always believed that the throw cushion has limited effectiveness. It should be one of the rescue equipment options, rather than the only one. All boaters already know the usefulness of a throw rope, and carry at least one on their boats. Oddly, the GCNP regulations had never required that a throw bag with rope be on a boat of any size.
It was a long process to get this change to happen. Interestingly, many at GCNP agreed with us and told us that we had to go through a change of Coast Guard regulations. For that to happen it took congressional action. We now have it. Owners of boats 16 feet or more in length can bring a throw cushion with them only if they want to. The new noncommercial regulation is:
"A throwable flotation device is required for each watercraft that is 16 feet in length and over. This flotation device must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and in serviceable condition. It can be either a Type IV device or a throw-bag and throw-line."
We appreciate that the new regulation require one of the two, rather than both. Oddly, the regulations still don't require either for boats under 16 feet. All boats should have a throw rope bag anyway!
As reference, the regulation previously was:
"A throwable flotation device (U.S. Coast Guard approved, Type IV, in serviceable condition) is required for each watercraft 16 feet in length and over."
Upon resumption of Grand Canyon river trips GCPBA will verify that the rangers at the Lees Ferry launch ramp are aware of this regulation change. They should no longer require seeing a throw cushion when checking that river trip groups have all the required equipment.
Lastly, we remind everyone that a printed copy of the regulations are required on every river trip. Specifically, as stated on the noncommercial river trip permit, "You must bring a paper copy of ALL the following with you on your river trip: this permit, your trip participant list, and the current Noncommercial River Trip Regulations."
The current regulations are here: Noncommercial River Trip Regulations 3-2-2020