Boat engine cut-off switches now required

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Here’s some breaking news: Anglers and other boaters operating watercraft less than 26 feet in length are required to use an engine cut-off switch as of April 1, when the U.S. Coast Guard implemented a law passed by Congress. There are a few exceptions, and I encourage you to click on the FAQ link at the end of this announcement.  

The engine cutoff switch (ECOS) and engine cut-off switch link (ECOSL) prevent runaway vessels and the threats they pose. The ECOSL attaches the vessel operator to a switch that shuts off the engine if the operator is displaced from the helm. The ECOSL is usually a lanyard-style cord that attaches to an ECOS either in close proximity to the helm or on the outboard motor itself if the vessel is operated by a tiller. When enough tension is applied, the ECOSL disengages from the ECOS and the motor is automatically shut down. 

Wireless ECOS have recently been developed and are also approved for use. These devices use an electronic “fob” that is carried by the operator and senses when it is submerged in water, activating the ECOS and turning the engine off. Wireless devices are available on the
aftermarket and are beginning to become available as manufacturer-installed options.
Each year the Coast Guard receives reports of recreational vessel operators who fall or are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown out of their boat. These events have led to injuries and deaths. During these incidents the boat continues to operate with no one in control of the vessel, leaving the operator stranded in the water as the boat continues on course, or the boat begins to circle the person in the water eventually striking them, often with the propeller. These dangerous runaway vessel situations put the ejected operator, other users of the waterway, and marine law enforcement officers and other first responders in serious danger.
Section 503 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 required manufacturers of covered recreational boats (less than 26 feet in length, with an engine capable of 115 pounds of static thrust) to equip the vessel with an ECOS installed as of December 2019. Owners of recreational vessels produced after December 2019 are required to maintain the ECOS on their vessel in a serviceable condition. It is recommended that recreational vessel owners regularly check their existing ECOS system to ensure it works, following manufacturer’s instructions.
Section 8316 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 requires individuals operating covered recreational vessels (less than 26 feet in length, with an engine capable of 115 pounds of static thrust; 3 HP or more) to use ECOS “links.” Using the ECOSL is required only when the primary helm is not within an enclosed cabin, and when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed. Common situations where ECOSL use would not be required include docking/trailering, trolling and operating in no-wake zones.   
The Coast Guard believes that the overwhelming majority of recreational vessels produced for decades have had an ECOS installed, so this new use requirement simply obligates recreational vessel operators to use critical safety equipment already present on their boat. Seven states currently have ECOS use laws for traditional recreational vessels, and 44 states have ECOS use laws for personal watercraft (PWC).
Boaters are encouraged to check the U.S. Coast Guard website for additional information on this new use requirement and other safety regulations and recommendations. The link here includes a FAQ section that will answer many of your questions: 

“Orphans” often not

In the spring and early summer, when wildlife reproduction is at its peak, young birds and animals are often discovered and apparently unattended by a parent. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), unless something seems amiss, you should keep your distance and leave them alone. Human intervention, the agency contends, is always a wild animal’s last hope for survival, yet never its best hope.

Wildlife parents are very devoted to their young and rarely abandon them. Many species are raised by only one parent (the mother) and she cannot be in two places at once. This means that baby wildlife must be left alone several times during the day or even the majority of the time while the mother ventures off to find food for herself and her young.

The best thing to do is to keep your distance and keep children and pets away from the young animal to protect both humans and wildlife. Wild animals can carry parasites or diseases that can be harmful to humans and pets. Wild animals also defend themselves by scratching or biting.

If you see open wounds or other injuries, or you know in fact that a young wild animal has lost its parent, consult your nearest Wildlife District Office or local wildlife rehabilitator (download a complete list of licensed rehabilitators in Ohio at Do not attempt to capture or feed wildlife until proper, expert guidance is provided to you. Also, limit contact with the animal to reduce stress and the possibility of it becoming habituated. Taming a young animal will make it unreleasable in the wild. It is illegal to keep wildlife without a rehabilitators permit.

Rehabilitators go through extensive training on how to raise and treat young and injured wildlife. Leave it to the professionals and you’ll greatly increase the animal’s chance of survival.

Chippewa Lake cleanup planned 

As part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, the ODNR will partner with the 

Medina County Park District to help eliminate toxic algal blooms in Chippewa Lake, Ohio’s 

largest glacial lake. The project, which spans three sites in Lafayette and Westfield Townships, will be funded through the H2Ohio initiative and led by the park district. 

“Chippewa Lake Amusement Park once attracted visitors from far and wide to the shores 

of Ohio’s largest natural inland lake, and we are excited that this site will once again be an 

area for public recreation when it is reborn as a conservation-focused public park,” said Andrew J. de Luna, Medina County Park District Board of Commissioners member. 

 The project will focus on diverting water from the Chippewa inlet into more than half a mile 

of newly restored stream channel to reduce nutrients flowing into the lake, including more 

than 20 acres of restored wetlands, and will add two acres of restored wetlands geared 

toward public outreach and educational opportunities for visitors to learn the benefits of 

such projects. The Chippewa Lake Wetland Restoration Project is expected to cost $1.52 million and is expected to be complete in December 2023. 

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