A state Supreme Court justice has fined Hudson River Rafting Co. $25,000 for using unlicensed whitewater rafting guides in violation of a court order, but he decided not to order the company shuttered.
The company and owner Patrick Cunningham had been directed to halt rafting trips on the Hudson River without licensed guides as part of an agreement to re-open last spring.
That agreement came after the state Attorney General’s Office took steps to halt the company’s operations when a rafter drowned in September 2012 amid a years-long spate of rules and law violations by the rafting company.
Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino found Monday that Hudson River Rafting Co. was in contempt of court, and he imposed $5,000 fines for each of five trips during which rafts were found to have been operated without licensed guides over the summer.
He declined to direct the company halt rafting operations, which the state Attorney General’s Office had requested.
Giardino ruled that, on five dates between July 5 and Aug. 1, Hudson River Rafting Co. allowed an unlicensed guide, Bruce Thomas, to guide rafts on the Hudson.
Thomas was ticketed Aug. 1 for guiding without a license in Johnsburg. The status of that charge was unclear Monday.
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The rafting company said the trips in question happened on the “middle Hudson,” where a licensed guide isn’t required, but state Forest Ranger Jason Scott submitted an affidavit to the court refuting that claim, the judge wrote.
“Mr. Thomas provided a guided rafting excursion on a portion of the river which required a licensed guide,” the judge wrote.
Giardino had barred the company from operating between the fall of 2012 and last spring and agreed to let rafting trips resume if there were no more violations. The company was operating a matter of weeks before the illegal rafting trips occurred, according to the DEC.
Cunningham said Monday he was disappointed by the ruling and believed his staff did not break any rules.
The area where the illegal trips occurred has Class 1 whitewater, considered the least dangerous level of rapids, and outfitters have used unlicensed guides there for 50 years, Cunningham said.
He said the company plans to resume rafting in the spring.