By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
There’s been a lot of pain at the pump lately with gas prices. The Biden administration’s recent move to give a waiver from the Clean Air Act to allow the sale of gasoline containing 15% Ethanol (E15) during the summer months is intended to lower costs and stretch the nation’s fuel supply. However, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says the unintended consequence of the waiver could inadvertently put a harmful fuel prohibited for use in recreational vessels into your boat’s gas tank.
BoatUS notes recreational vessels are never compatible with E15 (15% ethanol). It is not permitted by federal law to use E15 fuel in boats (as well as motorcycles, off-road vehicles and power equipment), voids the engine warranty, and it has been proven to cause damage to marine engines. It also causes engines to run hotter and contains less energy than E10. Recreational vessel engines may only use gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol (E10).
“While we understand the need to save money, we are concerned that fuel retailers may market E15 (15% ethanol) fuel, such as ‘regular 88’ or ‘regular unleaded’ as a lower cost alternative to E10,” said David Kennedy, BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs. “And therein lies the problem — the majority of recreational boats are refueled at roadside gas stations and, with almost no safeguards in place, there is a real chance that boat owners, looking for a bargain will misfuel their boats with E15 fuel.”
E15 dispensing pumps have a poor warning regime, sometimes just a single orange label on the pump, which is ineffective at informing consumers. A 2020 Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) poll shows that only about one in five consumers know that “regular 88” — or 88 octane fuel — has more ethanol (15%) in it than 87 octane (10% ethanol) fuel.
Kennedy further explains: “To refuel, boaters head to their local gas station with the boat in tow for a fill-up. Newer tow vehicles may be compatible with E15. “Regular 88” is selected and dispensed into tow vehicle’s gas tank. Then the boater pulls the trailer rig forward to refuel the boat. Without a clear understanding, the “Regular 88” fuel dispensing nozzle is put in the boat’s fuel tank fill, and you soon end up with a tank full of prohibited E15 fuel.”
Without the waiver, E15 fuels are prohibited for sale during the summer months (June 1 – September 15) as a way to address the higher ethanol fuel’s contribution to ground level ozone (smog) on hot days.
The administration’s “fact sheet” also notes USDA is considering additional action to facilitate the use of E15 year-round and other actions to significantly increase the sale and use of higher blends of ethanol fuels. It also notes EPA is considering modifications to pump labeling.
“That is something BoatUS fully supports,” Kennedy said.
Speaking of boating…
The buoys of summer
“Smart” buoys that provide data for Cleveland Water and other organizations that monitor Lake Erie have been deployed for the season. The four buoys use marine sensing technology to measure wind, waves, water temperature, and water quality every 10 minutes, data which is then automatically posted on the Internet for the public to use.
The measurements help in the monitoring of several lake conditions, including those related to toxins, hypoxia, thermal upwellings and harmful algal blooms. In the case of the latter, the information includes the amount of chlorophyll in the water, an indicator of a toxic algal bloom.
The data from the buoys also provides helpful information to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lake Erie boaters can access the data to find out about wind strength and wave height while anglers and can find out about water temperature and turbidity levels to help them select where to fish.
The buoys are designed to be removed at the end of the year before the lake freezes, but Cleveland Water hopes to enhance the engineering so that they can remain in the water over winter and continue collecting data that could help in such things as detecting e coli and nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms. The Cleveland Water Alliance paid for the development of the four buoys, which cost an average of about $80,000 each.
Learn science on South Bass
Visitors to South Bass Island once again have the chance to explore Lake Erie science and history at the South Bass Island Lighthouse, the Aquatic Visitors Center and on Gibraltar Island this summer.
The South Bass Island Lighthouse, which was completed in 1897, is located at the southwest tip of the island and was in operation until 1962. The lighthouse grounds are open to the public dawn to dusk free of charge unless otherwise posted. Free tours will be offered from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. June 11, July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8, 2022. Visitors can climb the lighthouse stairs to take in the view from the top of the tower. Tours for groups of 10 or more may be scheduled April through November by calling 419-285-1800.
The Aquatic Visitors Center is an educational facility, giving visitors of all ages the chance to explore Lake Erie’s complex ecosystem through hands-on activities and aquaria containing live Lake Erie fish. Children ages 15 and younger can borrow fishing gear and fish for free off the 100-foot pier. A limited number of free life jackets, provided by the BoatUs Foundation, are available for loan. AVC tours are free and open to the public from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays June 15 through August 20, 2022. Group tour reservations are available mid-May through October at a cost of $5 per person by calling 419-285-1800.
Two science and history tours of Gibraltar Island are offered each Thursday from June 16 through Aug. 18, 2022 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Groups tour the island, including Perry’s Lookout and the glacial grooves and see the outside of Cooke Castle before learning more about Stone Lab research. Tours can accommodate up to 70 people and are first-come, first-served. To attend, meet at 9:45 a.m. or 12:45 p.m. at the Boardwalk Restaurant dock, 341 Bayview Ave. in Put-in-Bay. Tours are $10 per person, $5 for children, plus $8 for round-trip fare to Gibraltar Island, payable to the water taxi driver.
Gibraltar Island and the South Bass Island Lighthouse are owned by The Ohio State University, and all three attractions are managed by Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory. For more information on scheduling your trip, visit go.osu.edu/tours.
Located on the 6.5-acre Gibraltar Island in Put-in-Bay harbor, Stone Laboratory is Ohio State’s island campus on Lake Erie and the research, education, and outreach facility of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program. The Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 34 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For information on Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu. Kelly Dress firstname.lastname@example.org (419) 285-1800.