Dozens of launch points, several kinds of watercraft, three county law enforcement units, two state Legislatures and resource agencies – one water body. Good luck, Andrew Hicks.
Hicks, 17, of Tega Cay resident and aspiring Eagle Scout is new to boating, but already he’s taking on an issue of concern to experts. He wants to make sense of what laws apply to Lake Wylie, with its two states and three counties surrounding it.
“We just moved here,” said Hicks, whose family came from Orlando, Fla., but didn’t own a boat there. “We were new to boating. It was hard trying to learn the rules.”
North Carolina and South Carolina have different boating and fishing laws, and depending on a person’s position on Lake Wylie, either or both could apply. Since the state line generally runs north and south on a North and South Carolina lake, boating trips involving both states’ waters are far from uncommon.
Hicks hopes to investigate laws in both states, then create a brochure showing the laws and differences. He and fellow Scouts will distribute the brochure to local marinas and all waterfront homes in Tega Cay. He already has city approval for his project. Scout approval should come soon.
Luther Dasher, Eagle coordinator for Troop 250, said the next step is for Hicks to get approval from the District Advancement Committee.
Scoutmaster Robert Mercer said he doesn’t “anticipate any issues” with district approval.
“His project is exciting, which will benefit all of Tega Cay,” Mercer said.
Hicks last week took his project to the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, a group that includes state and local law enforcement agencies from both states.
Joe Stowe, executive director, applauded the work done already, and what Hicks still intends to do.
“He was a very composed young man,” Stowe said. “He’s done his homework, and we’re going to help him.”
The commission and its partner law enforcement agencies have all the information Hicks needs. Their task each year is to get the information out to the boating community, especially in areas such as Tega Cay, where a boat might launch in one place and find itself on another state’s waters before throttling up to wake speed.
“There are differences there,” Stowe said, “and people need to understand them.”
One such difference is in North Carolina, no one younger than age 14 can operate a personal watercraft, and teens age 14 to 16 must carry proof of completing a safe boating class.
In South Carolina, boaters younger than age 16 must pass a safe boating course before operating a personal watercraft or boat of 15 or more horsepower, by themselves.
In 2010, North Carolina began a mandatory boater education requirement for boaters younger than age 26. South Carolina doesn’t have such a law.
Yet a young boater launching in South Carolina is still responsible for the North Carolina law once he or she crosses the state line. There also are lake specific laws, such as no wake zones at all bridges.
Hicks and his family of four found out quickly there needed to be a better way of getting boating and fishing information. Their initial experiences were word of mouth, with one person saying they’d need a boating course and another they’d need a “paddle and a life jacket.”
Because the bulk of his project is research and pounding the pavement to distribute the brochure, Hicks doesn’t anticipate it will be pricey. His fundraising will cover the printing costs. He hopes to have his work complete by late April or early May – pending Scout approval – in time for the typical launch of boating season.