Tragic accident spurs stricter electric codes for marinas

Tragic accident spurs stricter electric codes for marinas

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - An accident that electrocuted two boys in 2012 prompted the Tennessee legislature to pass a bill to tighten regulations on marinas and their use of electric power.

The law creates requirements for boat dock and marina operators in the state. The wording of the laws came from all of the parties involved.

Just by looking at any marina on any Tennessee lake, you wouldn't know just how much electricity is around. In order to provide services for boat owners who use docks and marinas, it's a must. Electric power is needed to run equipment and houseboats moored there.

The electrocution of two boys on July 4, 2012 on Cherokee Lake got the attention of Tennessee legislators and marina groups to take action.

A bill just passed tightens codes and inspections of marinas and docks. "The legislature, as well as the Tennessee Marina Association of which I'm a member, as are most marinas in this area, we want to make sure we have the proper safety regulation guidelines in place that would protect anyone from being hurt," Laurel Marina owner Dale Thomas said.

"When you deal with lake property, it's been a lot more loose regulatory that way. Really we're just saying, 'You need to come up to a certain standard, especially dealing with electricity.' When you deal with electricity and water, those two don't mix," First District State Representative Jon Lunberg says.

Under the plan, each marina or dock must add permanent signs to warn of hazardous risks involving electric shock and saying, 'No swimming within 100 yards of the boat dock.'

The no swimming is already in place on the federal level with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Not everyone agrees with that aspect of the law. "It's just not reasonable to say you can't swim within 100 yards of the docks. I'd just not have a houseboat if I can't get in the water," houseboat owner Bob Parkerson said.

The legislation does not cover boats, houseboats or boathouses that use electricity.

The new regulations are called the "Noah Dean and Nate Act" after the two boys who were killed. The laws are set to take effect in January 2015.

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