Power boats operating with unmuffled motors are illegal on most inland waterways but why is is happening and what can you do about it.
Excessive boat motor noise is a persistent and growing problem on Canadian waterways and has a negative impact on wildlife near shore, impacts lakeside residents’ enjoyment of nature, affects property values and the noise and speed causes fear for those pursuing water activities.
Outboard and inboard/outboard engines comply with the law when they exhaust through the propeller hub under water. Driving an unmuffled boat with pipes venting exhaust above the waterline directly from the engine with no muffler, or bypassing the muffler, is illegal within 5 nautical miles of shore. Note that nowhere on Lake Mississippi is it more than one mile from shore, even in the Big Lake.
Loud isn’t illegal, but muffler bypassing on our lakes is.
Canada’s existing legislation is weak to the point where police will not enforce it.
THE NEED FOR SAFE QUIET LAKES
Unlike the USA and Europe, Canada does not currently have legislation to restrict excessive boat noise. Safe Quiet Lakes (SQL) is a not-for-profit organization that was started in the Muskoka Lakes region to address this serious gap in boating regulations. SQL also launched the Decibel Coalition to build grassroots national support to introduce new legislation on decibel limits and provide for efficient and effective means for enforcement. (a full list of Coalition members can be found here). With this strong national support, Transport Canada has taken notice. This national coalition currently has around 50 member lake associations and municipalities from BC to Quebec, representing over 85,000 lakeside property owners. The MLA is a member of the Decibel Coalition as a show of support and in the interests of protecting Lake Mississippi from excessive boat noise.
In Ontario, Safe Quiet Lakes has done extensive surveys of lakeside resident’s views. The most recent survey of over 3,300 respondents identified support for stronger enforcement of muffler regulations and enacting decibel limits. In BC the Decibel Coalition has almost 1500 signatories on a petition calling for regulations of loud fast performance boats.
The Decibel Coalition wants to expand the Canada Small Vessel Regulations (SOR/2010-91) to include decibel limits on motor noise from boats, noting that the law should be:
Easy to understand and easy to enforce
Based on international measurement standards and decibel levels
Consistent with USA and EU regulations/laws
In a recent presentation to the Canadian Marine Advisory Council, Transport Canada offered potential options that could be implemented to limit excessive noise, including:
Improving the definition of “muffler” and modify/clarify requirements without adding performance standards
Introducing performance standards for boat manufacturers
Introducing performance standards for boats in the field
A combination of the above
WHAT CAN YOU DO
The Decibel Coalition has a planned meeting this fall with the Ministry of Transport to discuss the proposed legislation. In advance of this meeting member lake associations are encouraging their members to sign a petition that asks Transport Canada to enhance the Small Vessel Regulation SQR/2019-91 to include performance standards on boat mufflers measured in decibels with efficient and effective enforcement procedures. This will give enforcement agencies the tools they need and make our waterways quieter, more respectful and more enjoyable for all.
In addition to signing this petition you can use that site to add comments and tell your story about excessively loud boat motor noise. Let them know about your experience on the lake and describe how the excessively loud noise affects you. Detailed stories will add to the growing evidence about this persistent, pervasive problem on our waterways and will help convince the politicians and Transport Canada that we need change.
You can also send a letter to your MP, following the election, to express you concerns with noise and your support for legislation enhancements. Sample letter here. This letter can be adapted to reflect your personal concerns.