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Law bars stricter rules on Lake Norman boat rentals

Lake Norman Marine Commission opts to post checklist of ‘best practices’

MOORESVILLE Saying state law bars it from enforcing stricter measures, the Lake Norman Marine Commission late Monday unanimously agreed to post a checklist of “best practices” for boat rental companies to follow when renting someone a boat.

The checklist includes the company having marine liability insurance, with the commission named as an additional insurer; showing a safety film to renters; pointing out emergency equipment on the boat, making lake charts available and explaining no-wake zones and the “10-second rule,” where the renter agrees to wait 10 seconds after turning off the engine before allowing anyone into the water.

“Our original plan was to make the lake safe, and I think we have done that,” said marine commissioner John Marino of Catawba County.

Companies that agree to follow the list will appear on the commission’s website, www.lnmc.org.

The commission formed a panel during March of 2012 to study such measures as mandatory safety courses for renters, annual licensing of rental companies and a minimum age for renting a boat.

The panel includes Marino, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police lake patrol officers and representatives of several marinas that favor stricter boat-rental regulations, including Wher-rena Boatland in Cornelius, Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals and Boat Club in Sherrills Ford, Morningstar Marina in Cornelius and Westport Marina in Denver.

But such measures go beyond state law, commission Executive Director Ron Shoultz said. Renters, by law, aren’t required to present a certificate to a rental company showing they’ve passed a boater education course, even though state law requires that all boaters 25 and under pass such a course, he said.

“That kind of took the wind out of our sails with a rental boat ordinance,” Shoultz said.

Marino also said state law bars local governments and commissions from enacting any boater safety education rules.

The panel was created in response to a boating mishap in summer 2011 in which a Charlotte woman was seriously injured.

In a lawsuit against the rental boat’s operator and the boat manufacturer, Deondra Scott said she was struck by a propeller after she jumped into the water at an annual gathering known as the Lake Bash, in a cove off Gainswood Drive in Mooresville.

Scott said in the suit that Dennis Franklin Allen, the boat’s operator, had not operated a motorboat before and didn’t know how to handle one in a public area, especially at one of the most crowded events on the lake.

Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @jmarusak.
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