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Regulating Commercial and Recreational Navigation Vessels

Federal, state and local communities all play roles in regulating navigational activities in Minnesota. The U.S. Coast Guard provides and maintains channel buoys, marker lights, and other navigational aids on U.S. waters to ensure compliance with navigation-related public safety standards. The Minnesota DNR establishes standards for operating watercraft and approves local water surface use ordinances. All owners of watercraft, with few exceptions, must obtain and display a license issued by the DNR to operate on Minnesota’s rivers.

Local county agencies enforce many of the DNR’s navigation-related standards. The DNR reviews the budgets of local county offices responsible for enforcement of DNR’s standards, including search and rescue operations, to assure that the county maintains an appropriate level of service in these areas. Localities have some authority to limit or prohibit the use of watercourses within their jurisdictions. For example, they may designate particular stream reaches exclusively for swimming or unpowered watercraft (e.g., canoes) or impose watercraft speed limits.


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