The purpose of this chapter is to:
Act upon the authority conferred upon the Town Council pursuant to RIGL 46-4-6.17;
Manage the waters of the Town and balance the diverse uses of the waters and waterfront;
Maintain and improve shoreline public access and water quality;
Continue to support opportunities for commercial fishing and recreational boating; and
Remain consistent with the goals and policies of the Westerly Harbor Management Plan (WHMP), the Town Comprehensive Plan, the State Coastal Resource Management Program, the State Department of Environmental Management, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The coastal waters and harbor areas of the Town of Westerly under the jurisdiction of the chapter include those waters within one mile from the Atlantic beaches from the Charlestown line to Sandy point; Quonochontaug Pond west of the Charlestown line; Winnapaug Pond; three miles from Sandy Point and Napatree Point into Fishers Island Sound or to the New York or Connecticut state lines including the fairway from Fishers Island Sound to Little Narragansett Bay; and the Rhode Island side of Little Narragansett Bay and the Pawcatuck River from the head of navigation in downtown Westerly around Pawcatuck Point to the Connecticut border at Sandy Point.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
- To secure a vessel temporarily to the bottom by dropping an anchor from a vessel.
- ARTISANAL FISHERMAN
- A small-scale commercial fisherman harvesting for subsistence or local, small markets, generally using traditional fishing techniques, single handed, and under thirty-foot boats. They are considered vital for sustainable livelihoods and food security.
- BOAT LAUNCHING RAMP
- Any man-made or natural facility used for the launching or retrieval of boats.
- Any designated and/or maintained water area except for a fairway reserved for unobstructed movement of vessels.
- COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN
- An active full-time fisherman with a current commercial license and a working commercial vessel.
- COMMERCIAL MOORING
- The rental, lease, management, maintenance and/or operation for financial compensation or for purposes other than private use.
- CUT, THE
- The passage from Little Narragansett Bay to Fishers Island Sound. The Cut is specifically defined as that area between the westernmost and easternmost of the fishermen's buoys off the shoals north of Napatree and 200 feet north of them. These buoys are located differently each year as the shoals shift; the location of The Cut shifts accordingly.
- Any locally designated and/or maintained water area reserved for the unobstructed movement of vessels.
- HARBOR COMMISSION
- The body established to advise the Town Council on the provisions of this chapter and the management of the harbors.
- For the purposes of enforcing any provision of this chapter, including the issuance of summonses for violation of any provision herein, any individual appointed by the Town Manager as Harbormaster pursuant to the Town Charter.
- HEADWAY SPEED
- The slowest speed at which a personal watercraft or vessel can be operated and maintain steerageway.
- Any dock, pier, wharf, float, floating business or combination of such facilities that accommodate five or more recreational boats.
- MARINA MOORING FIELD
- Any mooring area managed by a marina that has applied for and received a permit with a defined marina perimeter from CRMC.
- MEAN HIGH WATER (MHW)
- The average height of the high waters over an 18.6-year period. Mean high water (MHW) is the average of all the high water heights observed over an 18.6-year period; this period is referred to as the National Tidal Datum Epoch.
- To permanently secure a vessel to the submerged land of a water body by use of mooring tackle.
- MOORING AREA
- Any designated area managed by the Town of Westerly where five or more recreational vessels are moored.
- MOORING SPACE
- The location where a vessel is secured to the submerged land of a waterway by mooring tackle.
- MOORING TACKLE
- All hardware used to secure a vessel at a mooring.
- Any vessel propelled in whole or in part by mechanical means, either inboard or outboard and using a motor powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, naphtha, kerosene, steam or fuel oil.
- Any individual, business or corporation which does not meet the definition of resident.
- A person who operates or who has charge of the navigation or use of a watercraft.
- A recreational boating facility that consists of a non-single-point anchoring device, for the purpose of securing a boat in tidal waters and retrieving it from shore.
- PERSONAL WATERCRAFT
- A vessel which uses an inboard motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of motive power and which is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel, rather than the conventional method of sitting or standing inside the vessel.
- PRIVATE MOORING
- A mooring registered and occupied by the boat owner. Private moorings are not to be used to generate financial or other compensation by permit holder.
- PUBLIC MOORING AREA
- Mooring areas managed by municipal or state agencies and as delineated in the CRMC approved Westerly Harbor Management Plan.
- QUALIFIED INSPECTOR
- A corporate entity in the business of inspecting mooring tackle which is in good standing with the Rhode Island Secretary of State and carries the requisite liability insurance.
- RECREATIONAL BOATING FACILITY
- Marinas, launching ramps, residential and limited recreational boating facilities, recreational wharves, piers, slips, floats or floating docks and recreational mooring areas.
- An individual residing in Westerly a minimum of 183 days per year and verified by either voter identification or a Rhode Island driver's license with a Westerly address.
- "Riparian mooring" means mooring tackle owned by a riparian property owner under a permit granted by the Harbormaster and located within the coastal waters bordering that property as bounded by the seaward extension of that property's lateral lot lines. Said mooring may or may not be located within a CRMC approved mooring field.
- Every description of watercraft, other than a seaplane on water, used or capable of being used as a method of transportation on water. (Specifically excluded by this definition are houseboats.)
All revenue generated by the Town boat launching fee, mooring permit fees, qualified mooring inspectors, other fees of this chapter, and fines levied under the authority of this chapter shall be deposited in a dedicated account to be used for mooring management and the administration and implementation of the Town Harbor Management Plan and this chapter.
Persons using the coastal waters and the harbor areas of the Town shall assume all risk of personal injury and damage or loss to their property. The Town assumes no risk due to accident, fire, theft, vandalism, wind, storm surge, or acts of God.
Boat operators shall obey lawful directions given to them by the Harbormaster, Deputy Harbormasters, or by any police officer employed by the Westerly Police Department in enforcement of the provisions of this chapter, as well as all boating laws as are covered under the provisions of the Federal Safe Boating Act of 1971 and such amendments as shall have been made thereto. Such boat operators immediately upon being instructed by the Harbormaster or a police officer employed by the Westerly Police Department, by voice or such sound device as may be used, shall allow boarding by such officer and shall comply with the lawful direction of such officer. Checking of all required safety equipment, as well as proper registrations of vessels under power, shall be considered a lawful direction of said officers. Any person in violation of this section shall be subject to the fine identified in the violation schedule contained within § 86-6 of this chapter.
Every owner, master, or person in charge of any vessel who shall neglect or refuse to obey the direction of the Harbormaster or deputy Harbormaster or a police officer employed by the Westerly Police Department, or violates any rule or regulation promulgated under RIGL 1956 §§ 46-4-1 et seq. or 46-22-1 et seq., not specifically set forth in Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's penalty schedule shall be subject to a fine under this chapter of $100.
The Town Council herein adopts penalties for boating violations, consistent with state law.
Harbormaster and Assistant Harbormaster.
The Harbormaster shall be appointed by the Town Manager.
The Assistant Harbormaster shall be appointed by the Harbormaster on an as-needed basis.
The harbor patrol shall consist of the Harbormaster, Assistant Harbormaster, and any other personnel engaged for enforcement of this chapter, including officers of the Town of Westerly Police Department.
Each boating season Deputy Harbormasters may be assigned to each of the Town mooring areas by the Harbormaster. The Deputy Harbormasters shall assist the Harbormasters in the safety patrol of each mooring area, but shall not have enforcement authority.
The Harbormasters and harbor patrol shall enforce this chapter as follows:
The Harbormaster and harbor patrol of the Town are authorized to make arrests and to take other steps to enforce the provisions of this chapter and, in the exercise thereof, shall have the authority to stop and board any vessel within the water subject to the jurisdiction of the Town pursuant to RIGL 46-22-17.
Any patrol boat used for the service of the Town shall keep a log through the police department.
All regulations relating to the Town's boating regulation program shall be maintained by the offices of the Town Manager and Town Clerk, and all violations shall be processed by the harbor patrol in accordance with provisions of law applicable thereto.
The Harbormaster shall appoint a designee who shall take charge in the absence of the Harbormaster and shall perform such other duties as delegated by the Harbormaster.
Enforcement of operation and equipping of vessels. Local provisions governing operation of vessels and activities within the waterways shall be consistent with state law.
The Town Council adopts all of the provisions of RIGL 1956, 46-22-1 et seq., relating to the operation and equipment of vessels and motorboats within the water subject to the jurisdiction of the Town.
The Town Council adopts all of the provisions of RIGL 1956, 46-27-1 et seq., relating to the operation of personal watercrafts.
Hours of operation. The harbor department shall be staffed as determined by the Harbormaster in consultation with the Town Manager.
Payment without personal appearance. Any member of the harbor patrol and any other duly authorized enforcement officer who charges any person with an offense as set forth in this chapter, in addition to issuing a summons for the offense, shall provide the offending operator with a form which will allow the offender to dispose of the charge without the necessity of personally appearing before the municipal court, provided that any operator who has been guilty of a third or subsequent boating violation within 12 months of the first offense must appear before the municipal court on the date specified on the summons, and may not dispose of the third or subsequent offense administratively. This section shall apply to both resident and nonresident operators.
Method of payment. If the offending operator elects to dispose of the charge without personally appearing before the municipal court, he or she shall execute the form indicated and return it to the municipal court not later than 20 days from the date of the summons either by mailing or delivering the form and summons to the municipal court clerk or the clerk's designee with a check or money order in the amount indicated by the fine schedule on the form.
Schedule of violations. Those violations set forth in § 86-6 of this chapter may be handled administratively through the method described in this section, provided however that this list is not exclusive, and jurisdiction may be conferred on the municipal court with regard to other violations consistent with the Rhode Island General Laws, and these ordinances.
Failure to answer. In the event an operator fails to answer within 20 days, then he or she shall have waived his or her right to dispose of the offense without personal appearance, and the person charged with such violation must appear before the municipal court on the date specified on the summons.
The Town Harbormaster and Town Council shall be guided by the Harbor Management Plan and the Town's Emergency Operation Plan when taking action in the event of a storm.
There shall be a Harbor Commission, which shall perform the duties and exercise the powers conferred upon it by state law or this chapter. The board may consist of five members appointed by the Council to serve for three-year staggered terms. Of the first members appointed under this Charter, two shall be designated to serve one-year terms, two shall be designated to serve two-year terms, and the remaining one shall serve a three-year term.
Harbor Commission membership may represent groups most concerned with management of harbor resources. Members usually include commercial and recreational fishermen, marina operators, riparian property owners, recreational boaters, and commercial waterfront businesses. In addition, the municipal Planning and Zoning Boards, and the Town Council may be represented on the Commission. Consideration may also be given to representatives from other interest groups such as conservation, shellfish, and historical organizations since these agencies frequently regulate activities that affect harbor usage. For municipalities which share a common boundary intersecting a waterbody, there may also be ex-officio representation from each of the adjacent community's Harbor Commissions. Finally, the local Harbormaster may take an active role in Commission activities.