Mandatory life jackets instituted at California lake

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Jumping off your boat for a swim in Pine Flat Lake, Calif., without a life jacket?

Anyone - including boaters - found swimming more than 100 feet from shore without a life jacket could now face a $175 fine as part of the new life jacket regulations put into place April 1 by the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake.

In addition to life jackets now being mandatory for all swimmers outside designated swim areas, new Corps of Engineers regulations say Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn by:

  • Everyone aboard non-motorized vessels, regardless of length, at all times.
  • Everyone aboard motorized vessels up to 16 feet in length at all times.
  • Everyone aboard motorized vessels 16 feet in length or larger when under way (except when powered by a trolling motor or if you are inside a fully enclosed cabin or the boat is stationary).

"Unlike state agencies, or even the U.S. Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers can make this kind of change without any public comment," Boat U.S. vice president of government affairs Margaret Podlich said in a statement.

"As part of a multiyear study, they have instituted similar requirements in the Pittsburgh area and some lakes in Mississippi," she added. "While the word 'study' implies a temporary ruling, the Corps says they are considering more permanent life jacket rules in the future that would cover much larger geographical areas."

The Corps of Engineers is the nation's largest provider of outdoor recreation, operating more than 2,500 recreation areas at 456 sites (mostly lakes) in 43 states and leasing an additional 1,800 sites to state or local park and recreation authorities or private interests.

Boaters are encouraged to share their thoughts about these requirements by logging in here to send e-mail comments to the Pine Flat Lake park manager and their members of Congress.