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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 22-1860




[58 PA. CODE CHS. 53 AND 107]

General Provisions; Commission Property; Boating; Boating Restrictions

[52 Pa.B. 7381]
[Saturday, December 3, 2022]

 The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) amends Chapters 53 and 107 (relating to commission property; and boating restrictions). The Commission is publishing this final-form rulemaking under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to Fish and Boat Code) (code). The amendments update the Commission's regulations pertaining to allowable electric motor speeds and clarify horsepower restrictions.

A. Effective Date

 This final-form rulemaking will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

B. Contact Person

 For further information on this final-form rulemaking, contact Vienna Vasquez, Esq., P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7810. This final-form rulemaking is available on the Commission's web site at

C. Statutory Authority

 The amendments to § 53.8 (relating to boats) are published under the statutory authority of section 741(a) of the code (relating to control of property) and the amendments to §§ 107.1 and 107.2 (relating to horsepower restrictions; and electric motors) are published under the statutory authority of section 5124(a) of the code (relating to particular areas of water).

D. Purpose and Background

 The specific purpose and background of the amendments are described in more detail under the summary of changes.

E. Summary of Changes

 Current regulations limit boat propulsion to electric motors only on Commission owned or controlled lakes, some State Park lakes and water bodies specified in Chapter 111 (relating to special regulations counties). These regulations were originally intended to reduce noise, excessive wakes, shoreline erosion and property damage, and reduce the risk of petroleum-based water pollution on certain water bodies. Boats powered by small electric motors (such as trolling motors) and unpowered boats are popular on Commonwealth bodies of water with electric motor only restrictions.

 Some exceptions exist for State Park lakes and certain other waters specified in Chapter 111 where internal combustion motors are permitted but with horsepower limitations. Boats propelled by small gas outboard motors and unpowered boats are popular on these waterways.

 Recent technological advancements with battery-powered electric boat motors have produced a variety of higher-powered options up to 180 horsepower (HP) and 60 miles per hour. While these new units are currently expensive and have limited battery capacity, it is anticipated they will become more affordable and widely available in the future. Boating stakeholders, partner organizations, other State agencies and staff have expressed concern about the potential increased availability and popularity of high-powered electric motors, which would be legal to be operated on waters under current regulations that allow electric motors only. Additionally, law enforcement staff have expressed concern about the complexity of enforcing HP limitations for electric motors to meet the original intent of current regulations.

 Manufacturer and retailer specifications for electric motors frequently refer to kilowatt (KW)-hours rather than HP, whereas Commission regulations refer only to HP. Therefore, Commission staff recommend adding clarification to § 107.1 that HP limitations in Chapter 111 apply to both electric and internal combustion motors. In enforcing HP limitations, Waterways Conservation Officers (WCO) typically rely on horsepower ratings that are marked on the boat's cowling (motor cover). If the HP rating is not marked on the cowling or the marking is not legible, WCOs may instead rely on documentation provided by the boat operator (such as an owner's manual), the results of an internet search of motor make and model, or, if the kW-hour rating is known, use a conversion calculation to determine HP. The widely accepted conversion calculation is kW × 1.341 = HP. For example, a 15-kW-hour electric motor converts to approximately 20 HP, which is a common HP limitation across this Commonwealth.

 During the comment period, it was discovered that to effect the changes in the proposal and avoid contradictory language, a parallel change is needed to Chapter 53. Chapter 53 establishes regulations for Commission property and indicates that internal combustion motors may not be used on Commission lakes. An exception to this rule is indicated in § 111.40 (relating to Luzerne County) for Lily Lake where internal combustion motors are permitted with a maximum HP of 60. In addition, seven State Park lakes are indicated in Chapter 111 as allowing internal combustion motors with a maximum HP limitation. On these eight waters, Commission staff recommend that electric motors must also comply with maximum HP limitations or equivalent kW-hour ratings (see the previous paragraph). On all other electric motor only lakes (that is, those that do not permit internal combustion motors or have HP restrictions in Chapter 111), Commission staff recommend that electric motors shall not be operated at greater than slow no wake speed. Therefore, Commission staff recommend that § 53.8 be amended to clarify and simplify that on Commission lakes that are electric motors only, operation is restricted to slow no wake speed.

 The recommended amendments in Chapter 107 set the conditions by which Chapter 111 regulations are qualified, as noted in § 111.71 (relating to general requirements), therefore these amendments do not need to be incorporated into or repeated in each relevant subsection of that chapter.

 The Commission proposes that § 53.8 be amended to read as set forth in Annex A.

F. Paperwork

 This final-form rulemaking will not increase paperwork and will not create new paperwork requirements.

G. Fiscal Impact

 This final-form rulemaking will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions.

H. Public Comments

 A notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 52 Pa.B. 5651 (September 3, 2022). The Commission received one public comment that did not pertain to the proposal.


 The Commission finds that:

 (1) Public notice of intention to adopt the amendments adopted by this order has been given under sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P.L. 769, No. 240) (45 P.S. §§ 1201, 1202), referred to as the Commonwealth Documents Law and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1 and 7.2 (relating to notice of proposed rulemaking required; and adoption of regulations).

 (2) A public comment period was provided, and one public comment that did not pertain to the proposal was received.

 (3) The adoption of the amendments of the Commission in the manner provided in this order is necessary and appropriate for administration and enforcement of the authorizing statutes.


 The Commission, acting under the authorizing statutes, orders that:

 (A) The regulations of the Commission, 58 Pa. Code Chapters 53 and 107, are amended by amending §§ 53.8, 107.1 and 107.2 to read as set forth in Annex A, with ellipses referring to the existing text of the regulations.

 (B) The Executive Director will submit this order and Annex A to the Office of Attorney General for approval as to legality and form as required by law.

 (C) The Executive Director shall certify this order and Annex A and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau as required by law.

 (D) This order shall take effect on January 1, 2023.

Executive Director

Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 48A-336 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulations.

Annex A





§ 53.8. Boats.

 (a) An internal combustion engine may not be used to propel a boat or to provide energy to the motor on Commission lakes. Boats propelled by battery-powered electric motors and nonmechanically propelled boats, subject to restrictions on sailboats and inflatables, may be used either with or without internal combustion engines attached. Boats propelled by battery-powered electric motors shall not be operated at greater than slow no wake speed. Notwithstanding this subsection, internal combustion engines may be used in the performance of official duties by persons authorized by the Commission.

*  *  *  *  *

Subpart C. BOATING


§ 107.1. Horsepower restrictions.

 On waters where horsepower limitations are prescribed, as set forth in Chapter 111 (relating to special regulations counties), the use of internal combustion motors in excess of the prescribed horsepower limitation is prohibited.

§ 107.2. Electric motors.

 Except as otherwise specified in Chapter 111 (relating to special regulations counties):

 (1) Electric motors are permitted on Commission owned or controlled lakes and on State Park lakes where boating is permitted.

 (1.1) Boats propelled by electric motors on Commission owned or controlled lakes, State Park lakes and water bodies specified in Chapter 111 shall not be operated at greater than slow, no-wake speed.

 (2) On Commission and State Park owned or controlled lakes, internal combustion motors attached to or installed in boats need not be removed, but the operation of engines is specifically prohibited.

 (3) Officers authorized to enforce the code and this part and, in the case of State Park lakes, officers and officials of the Bureau of State Parks and operators of emergency vessels may operate boats powered by internal combustion motors in the performance of their official duties on waters otherwise restricted to electric motors only.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 22-1860. Filed for public inspection December 2, 2022, 9:00 a.m.]

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