By: Paul J. Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

A lake association member of MLSA in Southwest Michigan recently applied for a regulatory buoy to provide increased safety in a no-wake channel. The lake association planned to cover the cost and maintenance of the buoy. This particular lake has many channels, that were dredged by developers decades ago, before the advent of enhanced environmental regulations. The lake attracts boaters from all around who often travel from out of state and may not be familiar with wake restrictions. Residents have increasingly noticed boaters speeding through the channels causing damaging wakes and threatening the navigational safety of all who use the narrow channels.

Subsequently, the application for a no-wake buoy, as a means to alert boaters to Michigan law, was denied by the DNR District Law Supervisor. The reasoning cited for denial was based on the fact that Michigan has laws that require a slow, no-wake within 100 feet of docks, shoreline, etc. The District Law Supervisor went on to advise the lake association that any violations of that law can be reported to the county sheriff. The advice was to also report the violations to the DNR 24 hour dispatch center.

The denial raises some questions. Why not allow the buoys to proactively deal with the most likely, root cause of the violations, which is lack of knowledge of watercraft regulations? Why ask residents and other boaters to wait to deal with the situation until after the dangerous boating has occurred?  Would not a regulatory buoy easily alert boaters before a violation and safety impact occur?

The provisions governing buoys are listed in the following 3 points:

  • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Law Enforcement Division, has the authority to control the State Uniform Waterway Marking System and the placement of buoys. That authority is conferred on the DNR by section 80121of 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.80121.
  • In turn the DNR has promulgated “rules” under the Administrative Procedure Act. Rule “R 281.1101” is what the DNR uses to govern the process.
  • Within R281, the DNR defines “regulatory marker” as a buoy or daymark that indicates to a vessel operator the existence of dangerous areas, restricted or controlled areas, and provides information and directions; regulatory marker does not include buoys used to mark fish nets and devices.

    Note: underline added.

Please tell us about your experience relative to buoys. Has your lake had an application for a regulatory buoy denied? What reasons were cited for the denial? Please contact us with specifics by replying to the email. Additionally, if your application was approved, please share that information with us by replying.

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