Noise pollution is an intrusion into the commons. When boom boxes, leaf blowers, and jet ski’s emit their sounds, they degrade the quality of the environment for everyone else. Many communities are fighting back, asserting their right to responsibly control excessive noise in public spaces.
Noise ordinances come in many shapes. Some are source-specific, limiting or banning the use of certain devices. Others are general, covering all potential noise sources.
Personal watercraft – commonly known as jet-skis – are a common source of noise pollution near water. They can reach speeds up to 60 mph and emit noise up to 115 decibels. Noise alone is not the sole reason communities have sought to ban them. While jet skis comprise 5 percent of watercraft, the small boats are involved in 37% of vessel accidents, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. Pollution emissions are another problem: most water scooters use two-stroke carburated engines, which emit 20 percent to 40 percent of their fuel unburned, including MTBE.
The first ban on jet skis occured in Washington state’s San Juan County in 1996. Since then, many towns have enacted bans or limits to using this type of watercraft.
At the state level, Maine and Vermont have passed bills banning personal watercraft on selected lakes. Maine, New York and Minnesota also have enabling legislation that allow waterfront municipalities to petition the state for jet ski restrictions on local waters. New Jersey has proposed but has not passed a similar law.
Nationally,in April 2000 the National Park Service issued a rule banning jet skis and other personal watercraft from all but 21 of its 87 parks and recreation areas where motorized boats are allowed. The ban will be extended to all national parks on September 15, 2002.
Internationally,the Norwegian government voted for a nationwide ban on the use of”wetbikes”, prompted by ecological and noise concerns. In Norway, local communities will have to apply for a licence to establish a wetbike zone. The Irish government is also passing legislation that will enable local authorities to make bylaws on zoning for wetbikes and power boats.
- Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet
- The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse
- The BlueWater Network’s Jet Ski Campaign has extensive materials, including advice on drafting local ordinances.
- See what the opposition has to say: Personal Watercraft Industry Association