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Two important dates scheduled for recreational boat operators

The summer boating season is getting close and before heading out, local boat owners should be sure they are prepared ... and have their state boater's education card

   Two dates for local boaters to mark are May 5 and May 12 - the first is when Crook County Marine Patrol officers have scheduled a safety inspection and the second is when mandatory boater exams will be given.
   Each spring, just in time for the boating season, CCSO Marine Patrol officers offer boat owners the opportunity to have their vessels inspected. Better in the Rite Aid parking lot, Marine Deputy Sam Forney says, than later out on the water.
   The basis of the voluntary inspection is safety. Along with checking vessel registration numbers and hull identification numbers, the officers also examine fire extinguishers, lights, horns and PFD's (personal flotation devices). If boat operators are found on the water without the required safety equipment onboard and in good working order, it could mean a citation.
   The safety inspection is not mandatory, but the Boater Education Equivalency Exam is.
   Oregon's new Mandatory Boater Education law was passed by the 1999 Oregon Legislature with implementation beginning in 2001. The Marine Board began issuing "Boater Education Cards" to power-boat operators in January, but no cards are required until the phase-in begins in 2003.
   Not only does the experienced boater need to know about power boating, but will need basic knowledge about personal watercraft and sailboats. It is recommended that even experienced boaters request the publication, "Boat Oregon-A Guide to Responsible Boating" and study it.
   "We have the exam books at the sheriff's office," Forney said, "and before taking the exam, boaters should come in and pick one up, study it and then take the test on the 12th."
   The examination will be given from 9 a.m. to noon on April 12 at the Crook County Search and Rescue building at the cournty fairgrounds.
   The class will be limited to 20 people, and Forney said it'll be on a first-come, first serve basis.
   The following information answers commonly asked questions about the program. For more indepth information, check the Oregon State Marine Board's web page, www.boatoregon.com/.
   What is "mandatory education?"
   This law requires boaters to take a course on basic boating skills and/or pass a test to demonstrate basic boating knowledge. Upon passing a test, the boater will apply for a boater education card which he or she will carry when operating a craft of more than 10 hp.
   Why is this law necessary?
   Safety is the primary concern, to reduce accidents, injuries, deaths and property damage, and to reduce conflict on the state's waterways. There are more variables on the water than on highways; for example, weather, waves, tides or currents. The number of registered Oregon boats has doubled since 1970. There are greater varieties of craft, faster and more powerful, and many are operated by inexperienced boaters. More than 90 percent of all motorized accidents are in boats with more than 10 horsepower.
   Who will be affected?
   There is no grandfather clause in the law. Once the program is phased in, powerboat operators of all ages must carry a boater education card. Here is how the program works:
   All operators of craft with greater than 10 horsepower, and youths operating any size powerboat, must carry a boater education card.
   Youths must be 12 or older to obtain a boater education card. Youths 11 or younger may not operate any power boat starting January 1, 2003.
   A person age 12-15 who possesses a boater education card may operate a boat of 10 hp or less without an adult on board.
   A person age 12-15 who possesses a boater education card may operate a boat of more than 10 hp if accompanied by an adult 16 or older who possesses a boater education card.
   A person age 16 and older will need a boater education card to operate a power boat greater than 10 horsepower
   Who will be affected?
   There is no grandfather clause in the law. Once the program is phased in, powerboat operators of all ages must carry a boater education card. Here is how the program works:
   All operators of craft with greater than 10 horsepower, and youths operating any size powerboat, must carry a boater education card.
   Youths must be 12 or older to obtain a boater education card. Youths 11 or younger may not operate any power boat starting January 1, 2003.
   A person age 12-15 who possesses a boater education card may operate a boat of 10 hp or less without an adult on board.
   A person age 12-15 who possesses a boater education card may operate a boat of more than 10 hp if accompanied by an adult 16 or older who possesses a boater education card.
   A person age 16 and older will need a boater education card to operate a power boat greater than 10 horsepower.
   When?
   Under draft rules, no boater education cards will be required until 2003. The phase-in is as follows: 30 and younger by 2003, 40 and younger by 2004, 45 and younger by 2005, 50 and younger by 2006, 60 and younger by 2007, 70 and younger by 2008 and all boaters by 2009.
   There are currently four options:
   Classroom Course: Boating safety classroom courses are offered by several different organizations, including the Oregon State Marine Board, U.S. Power Squadron, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the American Red Cross. Community Colleges, law enforcement officials and other public safety officials will also offer courses. Courses offered by private companies may also be allowed as long as the course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and by the Oregon State Marine Board.
   Internet Course: Anyone with access to the Internet can take one of the approved on-line courses. To access these courses, go to the Oregon State Marine Board website at www.boatoregon.com.
   Equivalency Exam: This proctored exam is designed for the experienced boater who knows the rules and regulations for safe boating in Oregon waters.
   Boat operators warned to watch out for rocks
   Local fishermen and water-skiers must be aware of the dangers low water at either of the two area reservoirs can mean. This will be Crook County Marine Deputy Sam Forney's eight summer patrolling the waters of Ochoco and Prineville reservoirs. "There are rocks showing up that I've never seen before" he warned. "Boaters will have to obey the law and stay at least 200 feet from the shoreline."
   One area of concern is directly out from the new parking lot and boat ramp at Ochoco Reservoir. Forney warns that a lot of the rocks are not readily spotted from a speeding boat, "they are a lot of them just an inch or so under the surface."
   Another factor of concern this year is the potential for more people coming over from the Willamette valley. "The lakes and reservoirs on the eastside are down and many boaters will be coming over here expecting more water. We can't mark every rock or shallow water spot. Boaters have to be aware of the shallow points," Forney warned.