Protecting the Environment While Motorboating

Spring is here, and thousands of Vermonters are thinking of the weeks ahead that will bring warm days, sunny skies and hours recreating on our stateís beautiful waterways.

Motorboats provide a great way to enjoy the Vermont landscape, from the winding Connecticut River to the wide expanse of Lake Champlain. Because of their speed and power, motorboats need to be operated safely, and the great majority of Vermont boaters are safety conscious and respectful of others on the water.

Most boaters have also become aware of the environmental responsibilities that come with boating in Vermont: preventing the spread of non-native species and limiting the amount of gas and oil that enter our state's waterways.

Everyone who recreates on Vermont's lakes and rivers should know about exotics such as zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and water chestnut. These are three of the best-known non-native plants and animals that have invaded our state's waters in recent years -- causing ecological and economic damage. One common way these plants and animals move from one lake to another is by attaching themselves to boat hulls, motors, trailers and other equipment. Please remember these steps to prevent the spread of exotics:

Also, all boaters should know that transporting Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, zebra mussels or quagga mussels is illegal in Vermont and carries a $150 fine.

Gasoline and oil entering our waterways is another major concern, because most outboard motors are inefficient carbureted two-stroke engines, which release 20 and 30 percent of their gas-oil mixture unburned directly into the water. That means if you own a two-stroke outboard motor, for every 10 gallons of gas you use, more than 2 gallons go directly into the lake, in the form of the familiar rainbow sheen you see by your idling outboard motor. By conservative estimates, two-stroke outboard engines release more than 500,000 gallons of fuel into Vermontís waters each year.

How can environmentally conscious boat owners curb this pollution? First of all, if youíre thinking about buying a new outboard, check out the four-stroke engines, which are becoming increasingly common. Four-stroke engines are quieter, use less fuel to operate and emit 75 to 90 percent fewer emissions.

If youíre a few years away from buying your next engine, there are several other steps you can take to reduce the amount of gas and oil your boat puts into your favorite lake:

To learn more about environmentally sound boating, please contact the Agency of Natural Resourcesí Water Quality Division at (802) 241-3777.

Article posted for the week of May 21, 2001.