December 2014 Myths

Boating Laws Myths
-contributed by P/C SEO Chuck Gresham, JN

During my three and a half years as a member of Thurmond Lake Sail and Power Squadron, I have been advised of the boating laws enforced on Thurmond Lake by several persons within the Squadron. These persons knew that I new to the Squadron, thus I needed to know these laws and regulations. Although this is noble, unfortunately much of the information I received was incorrect and seemed to be more of someone’s opinion rather than fact.

Now that I have the responsibility for Squadron Education, I thought that these misconceptions could be tactfully straightened out by regular articles in the LAKER. To this end, I will address one or more ‘Boating Laws Myths’ in each issue. My authority is a copy of the South Carolina Hunting and Fishing regulations for July 2013 through August 2014, email correspondence with the SC DNR District Office in Clemson, and conversations with local DNR officers. Because the purpose of these articles is to increase awareness of the truth, I ask that if you know that something published is untrue, please let me know. I will do additional research and point out any errors in the next LAKER.

Much of the mis-information I have heard stems from confusion about the authority of Georgia’s or South Carolina’s DNR to enforce their laws on Thurmond Lake. I initially thought that our situation of dealing with two boating law enforcement agencies was fairly unique, but when you look at the District 26 list of Squadrons, clearly 6 Squadrons and possibly 7 Squadrons of the 13 total boat in waters governed by two states. For Squadrons boating on waters between Georgia and South Carolina, the jurisdiction issue is simple in concept but a little tricky in practice.

In 1732 King George II decreed that the dividing line between the established colony of South Carolina and the newly formed colony of Georgia would be the middle of the Savannah River. This is still true today. But what about Thurmond Lake that has covered the Savannah River? Nothing has changed. South Carolina’s DNR officers enforce South Carolina boating and fishing laws within the State of South Carolina and Georgia’s DNR enforce their boating and fishing laws in the State of Georgia. Still the state line on Thurmond Lake, which determines jurisdiction, is the middle of the riverbed of the Savannah River.

Therefore as a boater, you can either follow your location on a map of Thurmond Lake to make sure you are in South Carolina, and abide by South Carolina’s regulations, or you can not worry about what state you are in and make sure you are in compliance with the regulations of both states. Generally this is not an issue, because most of the boating regulations of both states are similar. However the biggest difference concerns children wearing PFDs, and this will be addressed in the next LAKER.

Finally you might ask, how do the DNR officers in their boats know how close to the state line they are? One thing is for certain: if you are approached by a SC DNR patrol boat, you can be certain you are in South Carolina. The South Carolina DNR patrol boats have a GPS unit mounted in the boat and these units have a series of stored waypoints that define the center of the Savannah River bed. Thus these officers know within no more than 15’ how close they are to the state line.