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«John R. Kasich, Governor • James Zehringer, Director • Gary Obermiller, Chief Table of Contents Message from the Director Administrative Updates ...»

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources

2013 ANNUAL REPORT Division of Watercraft

John R. Kasich, Governor • James Zehringer, Director • Gary Obermiller, Chief

Table of Contents

Message from the Director

Administrative Updates

Waterways Safety Council

Waterways Safety Fund


Registration and Titling

Resource Planning

Scenic Rivers

Public Information and Education

Law Enforcement/Search and Rescue


Regional Reports


The ODNR Division of Watercraft shall provide the finest boating services, facilities, protection and education for users of Ohio’s waterways through the innovative and wise use of our resources.

watercraft.ohiodnr.gov 1-877-4BOATER (Ohio only) Cover photo courtesy of Annette Boose.

Message from the Director The year 2013 was an extremely productive year for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and the ODNR Division of Watercraft was no exception. The division’s employees worked diligently this year serving Ohio’s boating community efficiently and effectively by educating Ohioans about boater and watercraft safety.

Ohio has more than 450,000 recreational boats, and ranks ninth in the country for registered boats. Additionally, about 4.3 million boats are registered in the Great Lakes, which means about one-third of all recreational boats in the nation are found right here in the Great Lakes.

Boaters in the Great Lakes historically have enjoyed great boating, but over the past few years, we have seen record low water depths. Dredging in Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and other inland lakes is an important way of getting boaters in the water and staying in our ports. The ODNR Division of Watercraft is a user-pay, user-benefit program, and we reinvest the money we receive from Ohio boaters by providing funds for dredging across the state. In 2013, we focused on dredging projects in locations such as the Vermilion Harbor and the West Harbor of Lake Erie. Partnering with Ohio State Parks gives Ohio boaters access points at marinas statewide, which allows Ohioans to keep boating, paddling, fishing and enjoying Ohio’s waterways.

Our watercraft officers patrol Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and other waterways throughout the state. With 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie and 451 miles of the Ohio River as well as inland lakes, the ODNR Division of Watercraft officers stayed busy patrolling and offered emergency response when needed.

A highlight for the division was the passage of House Bill 29, also known as the Boater Freedom Act. Ohio Governor John Kasich signed this bill into law in July during Fish Ohio Day in Port Clinton. Former ODNR Division of Watercraft Chief Rodger Norcross and I were both passionate about this bill. The passage of the Boater Freedom Act establishes conditions for watercraft safety inspections, and the goal of the bill is to reduce the number of times state and local officials stop boaters on the water without probable cause. While this legislation specifically deals with local and state authorities, we believe it is a step in the right direction.

We want Ohioans and visitors to feel comfortable boating in our great state.

Rodger Norcross retired at the end of October after spending his entire career with the department. While we will miss Rodger, we are certain that Gary Obermiller, with his 28 years of experience with the department, will do an excellent job as the new chief of watercraft.

On behalf of myself and Governor John Kasich, enjoy spending time safely boating on Ohio’s waters during 2014, and thank you for a successful 2013 boating season.

–  –  –

The ODNR Division of Watercraft has 142 full-time, 13 part-time, and 17 intermittent employees. Commissioned staff focus on the public safety aspect of boating, while remaining staff provide updated boating facilities, programming, regulatory and administrative services such as registration, titling and grant program oversights. Agency staff oversee all field operations and administrative functions of the division.

Law enforcement staff include 20 supervisors, 64 full-time officers/officer specialists, and seven investigators who enforce Ohio’s boating laws, provide education programs and investigate boating-related accidents.

Significant personnel changes within the ODNR Division of Watercraft during 2013:

• Chief Rodger Norcross retired.

• Gary Obermiller was hired as Chief.

• Jeff Baker was promoted to Alum Creek Area Supervisor replacing Andy Hollenback who was promoted.

• Eric Reed was promoted to Boating Education and Enforcement Section Training Coordinator.

• Christina Kuchle was hired as Northwest Ohio Assistant Scenic Rivers Manager.

• Officer Harry Moore was promoted to Law Enforcement Search and Rescue Coordinator.

Waterways Safety Council

The Waterways Safety Council is an important advocate for recreational boating.

The council includes five members who are appointed by the Governor to fiveyear terms to act in an advisory capacity to the ODNR Division of Watercraft Chief, and they represent the industry, educational and recreational aspects of boating. There is currently one vacant position.

Current members are J. Thomas Pascoe (Chairman) of Sandusky, Chad Taylor (Vice Chair) of Wilmington, Doug Mclarnan of Gambier and Gary Branstetter of Dayton.

–  –  –

The ODNR Division of Watercraft is funded through the Waterways Safety Fund.

The fund represents boating dollars and was created by the 101st General Assembly in 1955. The Waterways Safety Fund is the sole mechanism used to finance division operations, payrolls, grant programs and other state boating programs. The fund is comprised of a share of the state motor vehicle fuel tax (0.875 percent), watercraft registration and titling fees, account interest, fines and federal grants.

–  –  –

Registration and Titling The Registration and Titling section serves as Ohio’s repository and historic reference for all boat registrations issued since 1960. It provides boat information to the general public, registration agents, boat owners, boat dealers and law enforcement agencies throughout Ohio and the United States, including private businesses, U.S. Coast Guard, Ohio Clerk of Courts title offices and other states.

Registration/Accounts Receivable functions include overseeing the registration sales; monetary data entering, auditing, and posting of all watercraft registrations statewide (i.e. mail renewals, online renewals, as well as traditional, historical, documented, temporary and alternative registrations for handpowered vessels). This section is also responsible for the issuance of temporary registrations, veteran registrations, dealer and livery licenses; collection of revenue from registration sales; and coordination and training of registration agents who sell watercraft registrations.

Registration/Titling functions include downloading a program called Watercraft Information System (WIS) Remote. This program allows Web-based sales of boat registrations. Currently, most of the contracted independent watercraft agents throughout Ohio are using this new program. The WIS Remote program allows ODNR Division of Watercraft staff the ability to search vessels more rapidly and more efficiently. In addition, WIS Remote provides improved customer service, quicker capability in correcting and updating watercraft vessels and outboard motor titles issued by County Clerk of Court title offices. It also assists with the scheduling of vessel inspections and Hull Identification Number (HIN) issuances.

Boaters paid $5.5 million in boat registration and titling fees in 2013.

The Recreational Boating Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) Boat Registration Marketing Program was a success for the third year. The division registered 1,119 lapsed vessels by using this program. The division will again work together for the fourth year with the RBFF to market a boat renewal registration program for motorized boat registrations that have not been renewed and will expire March 1, 2014.


–  –  –

2013 Registration and Titling Statistics Total Registered Boats

Total Registered Livery Boats

Total Alternative Registrations

Dealer Registrations

Telephone Calls Handled

Hull Identification Numbers Issued

Registrations Entered

Mail Renewals Processed

Online Renewals Processed

New Titles Entered

Titles Audited

Titles Corrected

Canoe/Kayak Registrations

Paddlesports remain among the fastest growing of all outdoor recreation activities. The number of registered canoes and kayaks in Ohio increased tremendously from 2003 to 2012. Statistics show 60,065 canoes and kayaks were Ohio-registered in 2003 compared to 126,504 registered in 2013, or an increase of 110 percent.

–  –  –

In 2013, the Water Trails Program provided $6,600 for updating and printing maps and brochures as well as the purchase of signage for the Great Miami River, Mad River and Stillwater River Water Trails. This was a coordinated effort between ODNR, the Miami Conservancy District and other local partners. The Water Trails Program partners with local sponsors to establish a network of waterway trails to improve access as well as increase safety, awareness and participation in paddlesports.

Clean Vessel Act Grant (CVA)

Eligible CVA grant activities encompass the construction and renovation of pump-out and sanitary dump stations, including floating restrooms or other structures that are not connected to land. Eligible grant activities also include processes necessary to hold and transport sewage to treatment plants, such as holding tanks, plumbing and bleed-ion facilities.

Current CVA Projects Amount Anchor’s Point Marina

Cleveland North Coast Harbor

East 55th Street Marina

Four Seasons Marina

Ironton Riverfront

Mosquito Lake

Tibbel’s Marina

Venetian Marina

West Harbor Marina

Wildwood Marina


–  –  –

Recreational Harbor Evaluation Program The Recreational Harbor Evaluation Program Grant provides up to 100 percent reimbursement assistance to eligible political subdivisions and state/federal agencies for dredging on the Ohio River, Lake Erie and their tributaries.

2013 Awarded Projects Ashtabula River Dredging, Ashtabula

Conneaut Harbor Dredging, Conneaut

Fairport Harbor Launch Ramp Project, Fairport Harbor...... 40,875.00 Lucas County Cooley Canal Dredge Project

Vermilion River Dredging


Cooperative Boating Facility Grants

The ODNR Division of Watercraft works with local, state and federal agencies and conservancy districts to provide funding assistance through the Waterways Safety Fund for recreational boating public access projects statewide. Ohio boaters enjoy free parking and boat launching access at hundreds of public sites statewide, including most of Ohio’s 74 state parks. From 1998 through 2013, the ODNR Division of Watercraft awarded to local communities a total of nearly $50 million in funding assistance through the Cooperative Boating Facilities Grant Program to renovate, repair and construct public boating access facilities statewide.

2013 Completed Projects County Project Name Amount Ashtabula Ohio State Parks - Geneva Transient Facility

Champaign Ohio State Parks - Kiser Lake Dock Facility

Cuyahoga Ohio State Parks - Edgewater Marina Demolition......... 1,700,000 Franklin Ohio State Parks - Red Bank Recreation Area

Scioto Ohio State Parks - Shawnee Courtesy Docks

Trumbull Ohio State Parks - Mosquito Lake Rt. 88 Ramp Rehab..... 400,000 Warren Ohio State Parks - Caesar Creek Marina Design............... 997,847 Total

–  –  –

Buoys and signs to mark Ohio’s waterways are provided to political subdivisions at no charge through the ODNR Division of Watercraft Navigational Aids Grants Program.

Agency Amount City of Ashtabula

Cleveland Metroparks Lake Erie

Columbus Recreation and Parks

Eastlake Ohio Port Authority

City of Maumee

Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District

City of Newton Falls

Ohio State Parks

ODNR Division of Wildlife

City of Rossford

City of Sandusky

Toledo Area Metroparks


Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG)

The BIG program is offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the ODNR Division of Watercraft to construct, renovate and maintain transient docking facilities for use by recreational boats 26 feet and longer, and to produce and distribute information about the program.

In 2013, the division continued to work on projects across Ohio, including these

projects currently in the engineering design or construction phases:

Geneva State Park

Shrock’s Marina


Scenic Rivers The Scenic Rivers Program facilitates the protection of 14 designated wild, scenic and recreational river systems across the State of Ohio. This includes 24 different stream segments totaling 800 river miles. The most recent river system designated was the Ashtabula River in October 2008. The Scenic Rivers Program is also responsible for the management of 2,314 acres of ODNR owned and protected “Scenic River Lands” as well as 3,650 acres of private land protected under conservation easements.

Program Highlights for 2013:

The division completed a strategic plan specific to aquatic invasive species (AIS). The overarching goal of the plan is to implement a coordinated approach to minimizing the ecological and socio-economic impacts of AIS in the State of Ohio with an emphasis on recreational boating. The goal will be achieved by focusing on four main objectives, including: (1) collaboration and coordination with other agencies, (2) education of the public and division staff, (3) introduction of legislation and regulation adaptation and (4) addressing recreational facility needs.

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