New Personal Watercraft Laws in Effect

New laws, which went into effect June 1, will affect how and when personal watercraft (water scooters, Jet Skis, Sea Doos, etc.) may be operated.

Kim Elverum, Department of Natural Resources Boat and Water Safety Program coordinator, noted the following summary of the major restrictions, some of which have been in place since 1991:

*Personal watercraft must travel at slow-no wake speed (5 mph or less) within 150 feet of non-motorized boats, shore (unless launching or landing skiers directly to or from open water), docks, swim rafts, or any moored or anchored boat (new);

*Operation of personal watercraft will only be allowed from 9:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset (new);

*A personal watercraft will not be able to jump the wake of another craft within 150 feet of the other craft (new);

*A personal watercraft rules decal issued by the DNR will need to be on the craft in full view of the operator (new);

*All persons on board a personal watercraft must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

*Operators may not chase or harass wildlife;

*The age for adults accompanying 13-to 17-year olds who do not have a watercraft operator’s permit is raised from 19 to 21 years old; those 14 to 17 years old can operate alone with the operator’s permit. If they have a permit and are 13, they also need to be in visual supervision of someone at least 21 (new);

*If the craft is equipped with a cutoff lanyard, the lanyard must be attached to the operator or the operator’s life jacket.

The DNR mailed each personal watercraft owner a copy of a new personal watercraft pamphlet and a rules decal on May 26, and mailed multiple copies to most personal watercraft dealers and rental operations. Additional copies are available free from the DNR by calling 296-6157 (Twin Cities metro area) or 1-888-MINNDNR (greater Minnesota); at regional DNR offices in Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, New Ulm, Rochester, and St.Paul; at sheriff’s departments; and at most personal watercraft dealers. All DNR conservation offices and most sheriff’s departments also have copies of both the rules decal and brochure.

"At this point, our primary goal is to educate the public about the new laws and gain voluntary compliance," Elverum noted. "As with any new requirement, enforcement officers will use discretion in dealing with any violations. As an example, those without a PWC rules decal will Probably be given one right on the water."

Some have also asked about the new $50 surcharge that the Minnesota Legislature added to personal watercraft registrations. "This does not go into effect until Jan.1, 1999," Elverum said. "It will be paid at the time the craft is up for renewal, which could be at the end of 1998, 1999 or 2000, depending on expiration date on the current registration."

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