Ohio boaters irate about boardings

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The Great Lakes water levels might be dropping, but the level of resentment over increased random boardings of pleasure boats on Ohio’s waters has apparently hit a record high. The result is a call to the Ohio General Assembly for a change in the law.

The Ohio action isn’t surprising. It follows neighboring Michigan, where precedent-setting legislation passed earlier this year becomes effective in November. That law essentially prevents any random stopping or boarding of a pleasure boat displaying a safety inspection decal unless there is a clear, documented indication of an ongoing illegal act.

Boaters in Ohio have since pointed to the Michigan action (Ohio and Michigan share portions of western Lake Erie) and have begun a concerted push for a similar law. Random boardings in Ohio have been unreasonably increasing, boaters say, to the point where boats are stopped and boarded multiple times during the summer, sometimes even on the same day.

“[Boat owners] are telling us they’re fed up and they want a law to stop what they believe is total overkill,” says Ken Alvey, speaking on behalf of the Boating Associations of Ohio. “It’s gotten to the point where boaters don’t even want to leave their harbors because law enforcement is waiting just beyond the harbor entrance. They say this kind of hassle simply isn’t worth the ride out there.”

Reps. Rex Damschroder, R-Ohio, and Dennis Murray, D-Ohio, will reportedly co-sponsor the bill, which will resemble the Michigan law but with some marked differences. This bill will provide that law enforcement agencies can stop vessels only upon reasonable suspicion of illegal activities or as a part of an authorized checkpoint.

And unlike Michigan’s law, Ohio’s would not require the issuance or display of any decal. The bill is expected to get very strong support from boating organizations throughout the state. The two districts represented by Damschroder and Murray have more registered recreational boats than any other area in the state.

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Now in her fifth term in Congress, she has an outstanding record of support for recreational boating issues along with small business in general. Her parents own a marina in Michigan, she is a member of the Congressional Boating Caucus and a past recipient of the Legislator of the Year Award from the Marine Retailers Associations of the Americas.


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