Proposed Changes to Motorboat Rules

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Color photograph looking at a river with gravel bank and forest on the other side. In the water is an aluminum jet boat with two occupants under power headed upstream.
The proposed rule on motorboats will include horsepower limits and seasonal non-motorized zones that were established in the 2015 General Management Plan.

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About

Proposed Changes to Motorboat Rules

The National Park Service (NPS) is soliciting public input through March 7, 2022, on proposed amendments to the special regulations for motorized vessels within Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The proposed changes would create seasonal non-motorized zones, legalize the use of 60/40 horsepower (HP) motors with jet propulsion and establish a 150 HP limit for motors below Big Spring on Current River.

These proposed changes were included in the park’s 2015 General Management Plan as part of the Preferred Alternative. The General Management Plan was finalized after a long public planning process. The NPS is seeking to amend the special regulation at 36 CFR 7.83 to implement these proposals.

How to comment

You may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified with the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE62, through March 7, 2022, by one of the following methods:

1. Online: https://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter 1024-AE62. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
*NOTE: If the above link does not work visit Federal Register and click the green submit a formal comment button.

2. Submit hard copy by U.S. Mail or hand deliver to: Superintendent, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, 404 Watercress Drive, P.O. Box 490, Van Buren, MO 63965

Only comments submitted online through the regulations.gov website or by hardcopy will be accepted. All comments, including the personal information accompanying the comments, will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov. All submissions received must include the words “National Park Service” or “NPS” and must include the docket number or RIN 1024-AE62.

Background on the proposed amendments:

Seasonal non-motorized zones

The NPS proposes to create seasonal non-motorized zones along the upper stretches of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers where lower water levels during the peak season typically limit access for motorboats. These zones would provide areas where motorized and non-motorized vessels would not conflict during peak visitor season, when it can be challenging for non-motorized vessels and motorboats to navigate narrow river channels at the same time. Peak visitor season usually begins the day after the last day of trapping season and ends the day before gigging season, which would currently be April 1- September 14. The non-motorized zone on the Jacks Fork River would be from the western boundary of the park to the boundary at West Eminence. The seasonal non-motorized zone on the Current River would be from the northern boundary of the park to Round Spring.

60/40 HP motors

The rule would allow the use of the 60/40 HP jet propulsion systems that are most popular with motorboat users today. Under existing regulations for motorized vessels within Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the 60/40 HP motors are not legal because they exceed 40 HP at the powerhead. The rule would allow the use of these motors and clarify HP limits at the powerhead for both motors with jet propulsion units and motors with propellers, which produce differing horsepower outputs.

150 HP limit

The NPS proposes a 150 HP limit for motors equipped with jet propulsion and 105 HP limit for motors with a propeller on the Current River between Big Spring and the southern boundary of the park. These limits were proposed to address visitor concerns about safety, degradation of visitor experience and increasing boat sizes resulting from no limits on boat motor size.

Frequently Asked Questions?


Why do we need a rule about the 60/40 HP motors?

This rule is necessary in order to legalize the use of the 60/40 HP motors. The regulated limit for boat motors in most areas of ONSR is 40 HP. The way the NPS previously interpreted the use of 60/40 HP motors retrofitted with a jet propulsion unit was determined to be inconsistent with Title 36 CFR § 7.83, which is the park’s existing Special Regulation regarding HP ratings for motorboats used in the park. Several years ago, motorboat users began exchanging propeller units on their outboard motors for jet units. An argument was made that the jet units reduced the HP output of the motors. Following this logic, a 60 HP motor would only produce 40 HP at the jet output. The 60/40 HP motors are widely used today, allowing longer and wider boats capable of transporting four or more adults against the current of the rivers of the park. A Solicitor review concluded that the use of 60/40 motors is inconsistent with § 7.83(a)(2). The inconsistency lies in the regulation’s use of the standard of power output “as established by manufacturer”. Because the HP rating pursuant to the “prevailing industry standard . . . as established by the manufacturer” on a 60/40 motor is 60 HP, the rule prohibits use of these 60 HP motors on ONSR waters where the regulated limit is currently 40 HP.


I already commented on the proposed horsepower regulations during the development of the park’s 2015 General Management Plan, so do I really need to comment again? Haven’t these changes already been decided?

The changes to the horsepower regulations were proposed at part of the 2015 General Management Plan (GMP), which did undergo comment and included a wide range of management proposals in addition to horsepower. The regulatory (rulemaking) process is separate and distinct from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance and planning process necessary for the GMP. There is a separate legal requirement under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that the public have an opportunity to comment on proposed regulations. Although the GMP planning process concluded in 2015, the park is now seeking to implement the selected action by codifying the rules about motorized vessels in 36 CFR. Comments on the proposed rule will be reviewed by the Regulations Division in collaboration with the park. The NPS looks forward to reviewing the public comments on the rule and cannot say until those comments have been reviewed whether there will be any changes to the proposed rule. The final rule will summarize and respond to substantive issues raised by the public. It will be reviewed and approved by the NPS Director, the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, and the Office of the Secretary before it publishes. Public comment will be valuable at this stage, though comments about horsepower that were received during the GMP planning process could be referenced as well.

Do these rules apply to the sections of the rivers that pass through the towns of Eminence and Van Buren?

No. When Ozark National Scenic Riverways was established, “gap” areas were established near the towns of Eminence and Van Buren to allow for economic growth and expansion of those communities. These “gap” areas begin and end approximately two miles above and below the highway bridges in each town. In Eminence, the “gap” begins approximately two miles upriver from the Highway 19 bridge over the Jacks Fork River and ends two miles downriver from that bridge. In Van Buren, the “gap” begins approximately two miles upriver from the Highway 60 bridge over the Current River and ends two miles downriver from that bridge. These areas are not managed by the National Park Service and regulations specific to Ozark National Scenic Riverways do not apply there. Any limits on types of vessels or horsepower would be at the discretion of the city or county in each area.


Can I use a jet ski or personal watercraft on the rivers under the proposed new horsepower limits?

Currently and under the proposed new horsepower regulation, “inboard motors” are prohibited within Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Inboard motors are marine propulsion systems that are enclosed within the hull of the vessel. Outboard motors are mounted on the exterior of the vessel’s hull. Jet skis and personal watercraft have inboard motors and are prohibited within the park.


Is there a limit to how many motors can be attached to a vessel?

Yes. This regulation limits vessels to one outboard motor. They may also be equipped with an electric trolling motor. An outboard motor is a motor mounted on the exterior of a vessel’s hull.


What if there are emergencies or hazards in the non-motorized zones during peak season? How will those be handled if jetboats are prohibited in those areas?

The park Superintendent has the authority to make exceptions to the horsepower limits or seasonal closures in limited circumstances, taking into consideration public safety, protection of park resources, weather conditions and management objectives.


Would the new rule specify different horsepower limits for motors equipped with a jet unit and motors equipped with a propeller?

Yes. A boat with a 25-horsepower motor equipped with a jet unit could operate in the same areas as a boat with an 18-horsepower motor equipped with a propeller. A boat with a 60-horsepower motor equipped with a jet unit could operate in the same areas as a boat with a 40-horsepower motor equipped with a propeller. A boat with a 150-horsepower motor equipped with a jet unit could operate in the same areas as a boat with a 105-horsepower motor equipped with a propeller


What are the dates for “peak visitor season”?

Peak season would be defined as beginning on the day after the last day of beaver trapping season (usually around April 1) and ending on the day before the first day of gigging season for nongame fish (usually around September 15). These dates are determined annually by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Defining peak season in this manner, rather than using fixed dates, would allow visitors to use motorboats for lawful trapping and gigging activities. Hunting, trapping and fishing (gigging) were included as authorized activities in the legislation that established Ozark National Scenic Riverways.


Where are the river sections affected by the seasonal non-motorized zones?

On the Current River, motorized boats would be restricted during peak visitor season from the northern boundary of Ozark National Scenic Riverways (near Tan Vat) to Round Spring. On the Jacks Fork River, motorized boats would be restricted during peak visitor season from the western boundary of the park to the park boundary near West Eminence.


Does the restriction on motorized boats during peak season include boats using only a trolling motor?

Yes, the seasonal restriction on the upper stretches of both rivers would prohibit motorized boats operating with trolling motors.


Besides the establishment of non-motorized zones during peak season, are there other areas of the rivers where the horsepower limit would change?

Yes, the section of the Current River from Big Spring to the southern boundary of the park near Gooseneck is currently unlimited. The new rule would establish a 150 HP limit for boats with jet units (105 HP for boats with propellers) for this section.


When would the proposed rule go into effect?

Changes are tentatively planned for implementation in 2023.


What are the proposed horsepower limits for each section of the river under the new rule?

Horsepower Limit Table

Table 1 to § 7.83.

The use of a motorized vessel is allowed on the Current River according to the seasonal restrictions and maximum horsepower limits set forth in the table below.

Current River Section of River Maximum Horsepower During Peak Season Maximum Horsepower During Off-Peak Season
Upper Section

Northern boundary downstream
to Round Spring
Motorized vessels prohibited 25 hp (motor with jet unit)

18 hp (motor with propeller)
Middle Section

Round Spring downstream to Big Spring
60 hp (motor with jet unit)

40 hp (motor with propeller)
60 hp (motor with jet unit)

40 hp (motor with propeller)
Lower Section

Big Spring downstream to
southern boundary
150 hp (motor with jet unit)

105 hp (motor with propeller)
150 hp (motor with jet unit)

105 hp (motor with propeller)


Table 2 to § 7.83.

The use of a motorized vessel is allowed on the Jacks Fork River according to the seasonal restrictions and maximum horsepower limits set forth in the table below:

Jacks Fork River Section of River Maximum Horsepower During Peak Season Maximum Horsepower During Off-Peak Season
Upper Section

Western boundary downstream to the boundary at West Eminence
Motorized vessels prohibited 25 hp (motor with jet unit)

18 hp (motor with propeller)
Middle Section

Boundary at East Eminence downstream to Two Rivers
60 hp (motor with jet unit)

40 hp (motor with propeller)
60 hp (motor with jet unit)

40 hp (motor with propeller)

Last updated: February 22, 2022

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P.O. Box 490
Van Buren , MO 63965

Phone:

573 323-4236

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