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3 Types Of Boats Now Banned On Lake Martin

Lake Martin boaters may be interested that the Alabama Marine Police have answered 2 critical questions on the boat ban:

Which boats are banned? and: How will it be enforced?

Recently, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld a new law that prohibits certain boats from operating on Lake Martin, Lake Harris, and Weiss Lake.

Alabama Marine Police Captain Brooks issued this post on the Lakes Online forum to answer the questions:

“Now that the Supreme Court has made its ruling on the “3 Lakes Law” and with the recent round of posts on this forum regarding that law we thought it might be a good idea to provide an overview and update to our activities regarding this particular statute.

In a nutshell, the law prohibits the following on Lake Martin:

1. Any vessel longer than 30’6”.
2. Any houseboat.
3. Any vessel longer than 26’11” that is capable of exceeding 60 m.p.h.

Category 1 and 2 can be “grandfathered” in providing the owner prove to the Marine Police Division that the particular vessel was in use on Lake Martin prior to July 1, 2006 or offered for sale at an adjacent marina or dealer prior to that same date. The vessel’s owner is required to make application for a lake usage permit that is renewable annually and pay the corresponding fee.
When the law was originally challenged in Montgomery County Circuit Court the Commissioner of our department made the decision that we would not begin enforcement of the law until that particular challenge was decided. Once the law was upheld we began addressing several issues with the law that would make it more prosecutable in court. At the same time we were resolving these issues we had to develop the permitting process called for in the law.

Once we felt like we had the major issues resolved and our permitting process in place, we distributed the “grandfather” applications to all of the marinas on Lake Martin and then began routinely making enforcement contacts of boats affected by this law.

To date, we have issued approximately 24 warnings, which we are required to do by law on the first offense. Of those 24 vessels, 22 were found to be eligible for “grandfathering” by our officers. We issued the first offense warning to the boat operator and gave them an application for Lake Usage Permit.

As of this writing our office in Montgomery has received 14 applications and so far we have issued 6 Lake Usage Permits for Lake Martin.

Over the Labor Day weekend we also ran radar in an enforcement capacity for the first time. The fastest boat we clocked during that weekend was found to be traveling 43 m.p.h.

From our point of view, this particular law is going to have a slower impact than some people might expect. For example, a great many of the “big” boats that you see on the lake are going to meet the “grandfathering” requirements. Boats up to 26’11” in length can still pretty much travel as fast as they want as long as they are not endangering themselves or other boaters. A 26-foot boat traveling 55 m.p.h. looks a lot bigger and faster than it actually is. Some of what gets reported to us with the speed issue is mistaken identification on the part of the complainant.

That being said, though, we did notice a drop-off in the larger “go-fast” type boat and the few that we did stop were either visiting from another state or had just purchased the boat and was not aware of the law.

We look to increase our enforcement in the coming months particularly in regard to the boats that should be grandfathered but don’t display the Lake Usage Permit Decals. We are maintaining a database by registration number of the boats that have been warned and if we see that boat a second time without the permit then a citation will be issued. If you have a boat that you feel meets the grandfathering requirements, you can pick up an application from any marina on the Lake or from our office here at Wind Creek State Park.”

Thanks, Captain Brooks, for the clarification. If any reader has any questions about this law, I encourage them to contact the Marine Police at:

126 Marina Road
Alexander City, AL 35010

What do you think? How will this affect boating on Lake Martin?  Please leave a comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below.  If you can’t see that section, just click on the word Comments and let us hear what you think.

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  1. Wayne Revis

    We prefer the lake to be a quiet and serene retreat for retired persons who love to fish, swim,and sightsee without fear of being run over by a speed boat.

  2. Adams Hudson

    Been coming to this lake for many years. Happy to see that the ‘big’ boats are being curtailed, though the ‘grandfathering’ should be tightened up to include “IF the boat is ever taken out of the water, then it can’t come back in” to deter some eternal inclusion.

    Also, if the law is hopeful to reduce shoreline erosion, certainly the proliferation of wakeboarding boats – whose wake FAR EXCEEDS that of boats of the ‘illegal lenghts’ – needs a forward thinking law.

    We’ve had to replace our shoreline rocks, have had dock boards get knocked loose from UNDERNEATH by these boats, and our pier lights are regularly tripped ‘off’ by these boats. When they leave, they leave a muddy, eroded, sloshing shoreline… at the state’s formerly most ‘pristine’ lake.

    Here’s hoping you can help.

    Thanks for all your much appreciated efforts thus far.
    Sad to see the unrelenting erosion caused by boats

  3. John Coley

    @ Adams, I agree, smaller boats can kick out a big wake too. This issue, like most with boating, can be solved by common sense but I guess to some degree we must regulate by law. I know that when we wake surf we avoid small sloughs with people, boats, and seawalls.

    I was surprised when the Capt. quoted such a low number of boats that might be affected. Sounds like maybe 30 or 40 boats on the entire lake. I would be interested to know if the Marine Police could give stats as to how many such boats are registered in Alabama.

  4. Sharon

    I have been going to Lake Martin for years and I miss the speeds boats and all the fun! I think if you want a quiet and serene retreat than you need to go to a smaller lake or go to Smith Lake. Lake Matin is one of the only lakes in Alabama that can accommodate the speed boats and it has been sad to see all the changes! I also agree that the wakeboarding boats create a far bigger wake but do you want to take away everyone’s fun?

  5. John Coley

    @Sharon – thanks for adding to the discussion…





  7. John Coley

    thanks for commenting, Greg. Please drop back by anytime.

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  9. Billy Spruiell

    Regarding the houseboats, this is an unfair and arbitrary law thats a waste of time for all involved ..How did only 3 lakes get singled out…Lake Martin has a total of under 10 houseboats sharing 750 miles of shoreline and are all berthed in 2 marinas that own pump-out stations (by law)…When has anyone seen one,much less two on the lake at the same time..5-10 knots of peaceful boating is really a threat..

  10. Tommy

    The first time I visited Lake Martin was probably in the mid to late 60s. It was the most beautiful lake in Alabama at that time. My wife and kids were up there last weekend and it was just as beautiful. I personally don’t have a problem with anyone bringing any boat to the lake. What I have a problem with is the fact that there are no more places to pull up to the bank and get out and play in the water. Everytime we stopped at a desirable place to beach the boat there were signs up prohibtiting such an act. I have to agree with an earlier post that storms do considerably more damage to shores than boats. I think what has happened with the big fast boats is that when the average person has a big boat he is not concerned with other small boats. Therefore the safety of others is compromised. I have known some of the marine police officers for years and I really don’t think they have anything but safety in mind. I don’t believe they are trying to infringe on anybody’s fun times. If you think big wakes are a problem at Lake Martin, go to Eufaula. Some of the most disrespectful people on earth drive their boats there.

  11. John Coley

    thanks for your comment, Tommy. Please visit again.

  12. Chronic Johnny

    i say we should let the people do what they want boating is ment for all people, midgets should be allowed to go out and wakeboard to i mean come on you guys for real midgets can do stuff to.

  13. Mike Idoni

    Why the ban on houseboats?

  14. johncoley

    Good question, Mike, you’d have to ask the law on that one.

  15. Thomas F Davis

    I think our taxes should be used to pay our water patrol to be more concerned with the idiots pulling their kids 35 and 40 mph up the middle of the lake in the high traffic lanes than the length or size of a boaters wake much less their speed when you have kids on wave-runners running 70mph and bass-boats with 300hp outboards going 90mph as long as their not cutting anyone off or running where people are swimming.

    I would like to see the maintenance of the buoy system which has missing buoys every season or stopping and informing the idiots riding around half planed off cabin and house gawking destroying boats and docks in their wake in populated sloughs.

    Most of these people buy a boat and are told here are your keys and here is where you put in your gas, take some boating test that doesn’t have anything to do with the lake, boat etiquette, courtesy or common sense and off they go oblivious to the destruction they leave in their wake much less the safety of others around them.

    Our patrolman should make these people aware of all of these things with a warning the first time and go after the worst of the offenders, of which there are many, and leave the average boater who is respectful of others and their property alone. Everyone I’ve stopped and pointed out what their doing wrong have been appreciative, like riding up the lake at night with their docking lights on, or their wake around docks, their not aware until someone tells them.

    our water patron should be informing, teaching, helping and servicing the public not working as a money revenue ATM machine for the state government.

    But that’s just me and so far no one has asked me, until now.

  16. Alice Boee

    There is no logical reason to ban houseboats other than the fact that a person can buy a very nice houseboat for anywhere between $50-100k for a fair condition used 60-70 foot houseboat, $100-150k for really nice 70-80 foot houseboat and $150-300k for a super nice 80-90 foot houseboat with 4 Bedrooms, 2 baths, hot-tub on top, party top….loaded with every amenity you could want. These boats do not leave any wakes, and they have holding tanks that hold the waste which is pumped out every few months when the tank is full. So what’s the real reason for banning houseboats? I tell you what it is…It’s the developers who build the $500k+ houses who have paid off the right people to keep these boats off of these lakes. there is no honest reason to ban houseboats.
    Just look at Lake Lanier in Georgia, with more than 800 houseboats on a comparably sized lake to Lake Martin, and NO problems with waste being dumped into the lake. Every boat that has a marine toilet has to have a inspection every year and every time the boat sewage is pumped out, it is recorded. DNR also does spot inspections of the toilets systems and can heavily fine an owner if the waste system is not working. So if it can work in Georgia, it can certainly work in Alabama….or can it? Sounds like dirty politics to me.

  17. johncoley

    @Thomas, thanks for your comment. I agree with you that the Marine Police have a big job to do. Personally, I think they are tragically underfunded by the state and under supported by the populace. I encourage everyone to talk to their state legislators to rectify this and to donate to causes that support them.

    @Alice Boee, I appreciate that you have your own opinion, but please refrain from using this blog to accuse people of crimes like bribery. If you have proof, great. Please contact the authorities or the news media. If you do not, please do not speculate here. If you do so again in the future, I will be forced to remove or redact any baseless accusations.

  18. Steve Dekker

    I must say that I was very surprised to learn of the boat restrictions on lake Martin while visiting the area from my home in Milton Florida. I have been a boat owner for 40 years and have had boats from 12ft to my current beautiful 1987 35ft Chris Craft Catalina. When I talked to one of your lakes most popular marinas last year about a slip for my boat, he sadly explained the new boat restriction law on Lake Martin. I have since read the law and the Alabama Supreme Court decisions. I certainly understand property owners wanting to protect both docks and shore line from large waves etc. I submit a seasoned well trained boat captain would never throw a large wake close to property as we have been schooled to know better. It is my opinion, based on my own boating history, that your decision to eliminate the larger boats from your lake, has actually reduced your opportunity to have seasoned Captains and knowledgeable larger boat owners actually help the marine police be the “Eyes on the water” to help educate and explain to violators your state and lake rules. A simple radio call from boat to marine police when someone is abusing the rules has been the way of the water on every lake I have ever been on. I suggest your decision makers visit the great lakes and see for the last 30 years how the Marine Police and Coast Guard have used boaters as Auxillery members to keep the water ways safe for every boater and swimmer in the lake. I for one would have loved to be on your beautiful lake with my boat. It is difficult to imagine that spending at least 10K per year with marinas for docking, insurance gas, food etc would not be attractive to Lake Martins business owners. All this and a boat on the water to help with unsafe boaters!! Are you sure that the larger boats are the problem or the faster, unsafe, folks behind the wheel? Thanks and happy and safe boating on your water ways.

  19. Tommy

    I have a waterfront lot on Lake Martin and I’m entertaining the idea of selling it and buying a big boat. The problem with the big boat is finding one within the length law. I understand the problems some people have with large wakes as I have seen what damage they can do. The issue is if you talk to some these “big boat” owners you’ll see they have large gas-thirsy engines in them and with $4.699 per gallon gas on the lake I can assure you the “large wake” problems are not coming from the large boats. Most of them idle wherever they go. The problem with the damaging wakes (from what I have observed) is not any particular type or size boat but from people with little or no respect for others or their property and/or people just plainly having no idea of what damage their wake can do. I for one will be carrying a video camera on the lake from now on and will video anybody I see “cruising” through a “no wake” zone kicking up some big waves and I will show it to the marine police. I will do my best to make sure the registration number of the boat is clearly seen. Not trying to get anyone in trouble but maybe the marine police can educate them. Again, the problem is not with any particular type or size boat but more a problem with apparently uneducated operators. I don’t necessarily agree with law but it is the law for now and I will observe it. This attitude tends to keep me out of trouble.