Laws and Regulations

Marinas are subject to a variety of regulations related to land use; pollution control; habitat preservation; and safe and proper use of the state’s waterways. Several federal and state authorities are responsible for oversight of such regulations in Ohio.

This section of laws, regulations, and permits is a summary. It is by no means comprehensive, but is meant to provide:

  • An introduction to the responsibilities of certain state and federal agencies
  • An overview of some relevant laws
  • A synopsis of information about permits and licenses

Detailed information on state requirements is found throughout the Ohio Clean Marina Guidebook (PDF).

For additional information and support in pursuing certification contact the Ohio Clean Marina Program.

Remember to use the Ohio Clean Marina Certification Checklist as a guide in completing this Classroom. The checklist will inform you what is required for certification by the Ohio Clean Marina program.

Selected State and Federal Laws that Affect Ohio Marinas

Archaeological Resources Protection Act

The purpose of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act is to secure, for the present and future benefit of the American people, the protection of archaeological resources and sites which are on public lands and Indian lands, and to foster increased cooperation and exchange of information between governmental authorities, the professional archaeological community, and private individuals having collections of archaeological resources and data which were obtained before the date of the enactment of this Act. The Act requires that marina developers apply for a permit to remove any archaeological resource(s) located on public lands where a marina is to be developed or expanded.


Clean Air Act

EPA set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for protection of public health and the environment. Some examples of regulated air pollutants include: volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals. The Clean Air Act has been amended several times, most recently in 1990 to include several new requirements that apply directly to smaller sources of air pollution, often small businesses. Businesses are required to get permits for sources/activities that discharge pollutants to the air. Permits are required to install (“permit to install”) and to operate (“permit to operate”) sources of air pollution. A small business, such as a marina, would be regulated under the Clean Air Act and may need to get a permit if it is operating a unit that discharges air pollutants.

Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control is responsible for Clean Air Act programs. In addition, some areas of the state have air pollution control agencies with responsibilities related to air regulations.


The Clean Vessel Act (CVA)

The purpose of the Clean Vessel Act of 1992 is to maintain and improve the water quality in boating waters throughout the United States. The goal of the Act was to evaluate existing conditions for sewage disposal from recreational boats and to implement improvements where needed. Under the Clean Vessel Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is authorized to make grants to coastal states for the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pump-out and dump stations for the disposal of sewage discharged by recreational boaters. ODNR administers the Clean Vessel Act federal financial assistance in Ohio and works in conjunction with ODH to accomplish the goals of this program.


Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA)

The Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) provided the impetus for the Ohio Clean Marinas Program. Section 6217 of the Amendments requires that nonpoint source pollution from marinas be contained. Through the Clean Marinas Program, Ohio is promoting voluntary adoption of best management practices to minimize the impact of marinas on surrounding land and water.


Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Laws and Regulations

In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) was signed into law. Title III of SARA is also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA requires companies to report information about the chemicals they have on their property. Reporting and other requirements of EPCRA for businesses are covered under these major sections:

  1. Community Right-to-Know Reporting Requirements (Sections 311-312)
  2. Emergency Release Notification (Section 304)
  3. Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Reporting (Section 313)

Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control is responsible for the EPCRA program and requirements.


Endangered Species Act

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is to protect the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend. The act, administered by ODNR, Division of Wildlife, requires completion of a biological assessment to determine the presence of endangered species before construction activities may commence.


Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

The purpose of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act is to provide financial and technical assistance to the states for the development, revision and implementation of conservation plans and programs for nongame fish and wildlife, and to encourage federal agencies to utilize their statutory and administrative authority to conserve and to promote the conservation of nongame fish and wildlife and their habitats. Marina developers may be required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or NOAA to ensure that a project will not adversely impact fish and wildlife resources.


Ohio Marina Licensing Program

Marinas providing boat dockage for seven or more watercraft are licensable facilities in Ohio under state law, and are subject to rules established in the Ohio Administrative Code. The marina licensing program in Ohio was established in the mid-1970s. Administered by the Ohio Department of Health, the program regulates marina construction, operation, and maintenance and ensures the adequacy of sanitary facilities at a marina.

In Ohio, local governments have the authority and responsibility to plan for and control the development of specific land uses within their respective jurisdictions. In particular, under Ohio’s Marina Licensing Program, marina licenses are issued and annual inspections are conducted by the respective local/county board of health. Local requirements vary across counties.


Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Programs

The Submerged Lands Lease Program provides ODNR authority to protect the public trust ownership of Lake Erie’s waters and the lands underneath, is another means by which environmental impacts of marina construction can be controlled.

ODNR’s Division of Watercraft oversees operations through regulations that are enforceable by state and local law enforcement jurisdictions. The Division of Watercraft also promotes public education through its Boating Education Program and Boating and The Environment educational materials.


Ohio Litter Laws

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1529 (Wildlife Regulations) and 1547 (Watercraft Regulations) contains sections prohibiting littering on Ohio’s waterways. The Wildlife regulations prohibit any litter, garbage, etc. from being disposed of in any ditch, stream, river, lake, pond, or other watercourse that forms a juncture with natural surface or underground water within the State of Ohio. The Watercraft regulations prohibit anyone from throwing, dropping, discarding, or depositing litter, regardless of intent, from a boat into the water within the State of Ohio. Administered by the ODNR Division of Wildlife, these regulations help prevent stream litter or other discharges that kill or endanger wild animals and stream life.


Organotin Antifoulant Paint Control Act (OAPC) of 1988

The Organotin Antifoulant Paint Control Act restricts the use of organotin antifouling paints, including tributyl tin-based paints. Tributyl tin (TBT) paints may be used only on aluminum-hulled vessels, on boats larger than 82 feet (25 meters), and on outboard motors and lower drive units. Any boatyard operator wishing to apply TBT paints must obtain a limited commercial license (to be called a commercial applicator license after July 1, 2004) from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. It is illegal for anybody without a license to distribute, sell, use, or possess antifoulants containing tributyl tin. The only exception is for private use of spray cans that are 16 ounces or less and which do not exceed the release rate of less than or equal to 5.0 micrograms per square centimeter per day. These spray cans of TBT paint remain an unregulated substance and may be applied by boaters without an applicator license.


Refuse Act of 1899

The Refuse Act of 1899 prohibits throwing, discharging, or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil, and other liquid pollutants) into waters of the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard shares authority of this law with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 provided EPA the authority to regulate the management of wastes. Ohio EPA’s Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Management is responsible for wastes such as trash, compost waste, scrap tires and construction/demolition debris. Waste haulers, composting facilities, transfer facilities and landfills are some of the handlers that need to meet specific requirements. State regulations have also been established for facilities that handle infectious/medical wastes.

Ohio EPA’s Division of Hazardous Waste Management is responsible for enforcing hazardous waste regulations. Subtitle C of RCRA sets management standards for how hazardous wastes need to be managed from point of generation to final disposal (called “cradle-to-grave” regulation). The hazardous waste regulations apply to anyone who generates, transports, treats, stores or disposes of hazardous waste. Besides on-site management standards, there are also paperwork and tracking requirements for hazardous waste handlers under these rules.


Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 prohibits the construction of any bridge, dam, dike or causeway over or in navigable waterways of the U.S. without Congressional approval. Under the Rivers and Harbors Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is authorized to regulate the construction of any structure or work within navigable waters under sections 9 and 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Marina developers must submit plans to the USACE for approval of construction, excavation, or deposition of materials in or affecting U.S. navigable waters.


Safe Drinking Water Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 was passed to protect our sources of drinking water. These include sources currently in use and those that have the potential to be used for drinking water in the future. The law covers both above and underground sources of drinking water. Under the law, EPA is authorized to establish water quality standards to ensure that drinking water is free from harmful contaminants like organic, heavy metal, radioactive and biological contaminants. Other standards, set to control contaminants like suspended solids, chlorides, iron and pH, help improve the quality of drinking water as well.

Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Waters is responsible for enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.

Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Regulations

The Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations (40 CFR, Part 112) were put into effect in 1974. These regulations establish spill prevention and spill control requirements for facilities storing certain quantities of “oil.” The definition of “oil” is very broad, including, but not limited to, fuel oils, mineral and vegetable oils, animal oils, lubricating oils, greases, and oil mixed with waste.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 revised portions of the SPCC regulation. Any facility considered to pose a “significant and substantial harm” to the environment, based on the amount of oil stored (a million gallons), or location (within a certain distance from sensitive environments or a facility which conducts fuel transfers over water), must prepare a Facility Response Plan (FRP). This document is a very comprehensive spill response plan, and must be submitted to and approved by U.S. EPA. Typically, only very large facilities or facilities located directly on a waterway would be subject to this requirement.

The Ohio EPA’s Division of Emergency and Remedial Response is responsible for the SPCC program. U.S. EPA is responsible for the approval of FRPs.


Wild Animal Regulations: Non-native Species

In 2010, Ohio implemented wild animal importing, exporting, selling and possession regulations. Specifically, Ohio Administrative Code: Chapter 1501:31-19 (D) Wild Animal Regulations states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, import or sell exotic species of fish or hybrids thereof for introduction or to release into any body of water that is connected to or otherwise drains into a flowing stream or other body of water that would allow egress of the fish into public waters, or waters of the state, without first having obtained permission of the chief.” See: Chapter 1501:31-19, Wild Animal Regulations, 1501:31-19-01, Wild animal importing, exporting, selling and possession regulations, Ohio Laws and Rules Website.


Federal Water Pollution Control Act

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) passed in 1972. The law prohibited the discharge of oil and hazardous substances in harmful quantities into the navigable waterways of the United States. Discharge was defined as any emission of oil or designated hazardous substances into the environment, regardless if the discharge was intentional or unintentional. The law contained provisions that obligated the spiller to respond to a spill and it also established civil and criminal penalties for discharges. The enforcement authority for this law was delegated to the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since the law was enacted, it has undergone two major revisions.

Clean Water Act (CWA)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was passed in 1977 and amended the FWPCA. The law increased the enforcement and response authority for the federal government. In addition, the CWA established a revolving pollution fund for spill clean up and defined harmful quantity of oil and reportable quantity for designated hazardous substances. The Act prohibits the use of chemical agents like soaps, detergents, surfactants, or emulsifying agents to disperse fuel, oil, or other chemicals without the permission of the Regional Response Team.

Under the CWA regulations, a business that discharges wastewater directly to any surface water needs to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from Ohio EPA. The NPDES permit helps to maintain the quality of our surface waters by controlling the quantity and types of pollutants that can be discharged. The permit typically contains discharge (“effluent”) limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements.

The Clean Water Act also includes regulations for companies that discharge wastewater to a local wastewater/sewage treatment plant (also called a “publicly owned treatment works” or POTW). These companies (called “indirect dischargers”) are subject to pretreatment regulations under the CWA. If a company is discharging wastewater to a public treatment system, obtaining a permit and/or permission from the treatment facility for the discharge may be necessary.

Storm water runoff from certain industrial sites can also carry pollutants directly to surface waters. In 1987 the CWA was amended to include regulations for controlling storm water runoff from certain industrial sites. Companies subject to these regulations must obtain a storm water permit and develop a storm water management plan.

Under the Clean Water Act, anyone who wishes to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the United States must obtain a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and a water quality certification (called a Section 401 certification) from Ohio EPA. Activities that may be regulated include: construction or clearing in a wetland area, erosion protection, dredging, ditching or altering a stream.

Many different agencies administer the CWA including the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. EPA. Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water is responsible for the Clean Water Act programs in Ohio. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is responsible for Section 404 permits for dredged/fill material activities.

Oil Pollution Act of 1990

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) was passed in 1990 and amended the FWPCA and CWA. This law increased the spiller’s liabilities and responsibilities and increased penalties for a violation of the Act.


State Agencies

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)

The mission of the ODNR is “to ensure a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all.” A department of incredible diversity, ODNR owns and manages more than 470,000 acres of land including 74 state parks, 20 state forests, 123 state nature preserves, and 96 wildlife areas. The department also has jurisdiction over more than 120,000 acres of inland waters; 7,000 miles of streams; 481 miles of Ohio River; and 2-1/4 million acres of Lake Erie.

In addition, ODNR licenses all hunting, fishing, and watercraft in the state and is responsible for overseeing and permitting all mineral extraction, monitoring dam safety, managing water resources, coordinating the activity of Ohio’s 88 county soil and water conservation districts, mapping the state’s major geologic structures and mineral resources, and promoting recycling and litter prevention through grant programs in local communities. In particular, the Division of Watercraft administers the federal Clean Vessel Act Pumpout Grant Program to provide funding for the construction and/or renovation of marine pumpout and dump station facilities.


Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Fountain Square, Columbus, Ohio 43224

Division of Soil and Water Conservation
105 West Shoreline Drive, Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Coastal Management: Coastal NPS Coordinator
Phone: (419) 609-4102, Fax (419) 609-4158Website


Ohio Department of Health (ODH)

Marinas in Ohio are regulated by their local boards of health under the authority of the Ohio Department of Health. A marina is defined as a boat basin that has docks or moorings for seven or more watercraft. The rules apply uniformly, throughout the state, affecting the location, development, operation, and maintenance of marinas to assure that such marinas provide adequate sanitary facilities for the watercraft using them and do not cause a nuisance or health hazard.

Ohio Department of Health
246 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-1390Website


Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA)

The mission of Ohio EPA is to protect the environment and public health by ensuring compliance with environmental laws and demonstrating leadership in environmental stewardship. The role of the Ohio EPA is to protect human health and the environment by establishing and enforcing standards for air quality, drinking water and stream water quality, wastewater treatment, and solid and hazardous waste disposal, and to provide comprehensive environmental education.

These roles are carried out through: issuing permits to install and operate facilities; providing oversight through inspections and sampling; monitoring and reporting on environmental quality; providing environmental education and technical assistance to industry and the general public; providing assistance in pollution prevention; and taking enforcement actions against violators. Loans and grants are provided for nonpoint source water pollution control and for some environmental infrastructure, such as sewage and drinking water treatment plants.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
122 S. Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 644-3020


Ohio Department of Commerce: Ohio State Fire Marshal (SFM) Code Enforcement Bureau

The State Fire Marshal’s mission is as follows: “Division activities focus on education, research, regular enforcement in the area of fire safety and fire prevention. The Code Enforcement Bureau’s mission is to inspect all buildings, structures and other places, the condition of which is or may be dangerous from a fire safety standpoint to life or property. The Code Enforcement Bureau is responsible for enforcement of the Ohio Fire Code which includes flammable and combustible liquid storage tanks. The storage of Flammable and Combustible liquids (AST’s and those underground tanks exempt from OAC 1301:7-9 Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations) is regulated by Chapter 22 of the Ohio Fire Code.

These roles are carried out through: issuing permits and providing oversight through inspections during these permit related endeavors and by providing fire safety education and technical assistance to the industry and the general public; and by taking enforcement actions against code violators.

Service stations with AST’s at marinas in Ohio are regulated by the Ohio Fire Code, Chapter 22 and referenced standards NFPA 30 and NFPA 30A. Permits are required to be applied for through the Code Enforcement Bureau, if the local fire jurisdiction does not issue permits for installation, removal and alteration of AST’s.

State Fire Marshal
Code Enforcement Bureau
6606 Tussing Rd., Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068
Contact: Lynn French
(614) 728-5460Website


Ohio Department of Commerce: Ohio State Fire Marshal (SFM) Bureau of Underground

Storage Tank Regulations
The mission of the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR) is to “effectively regulate the safe operation of underground storage tanks (USTs) and to ensure the appropriate investigation and cleanup of releases from USTs for the purpose of protecting human health and the environmental for the citizens of Ohio.” BUSTR regulates most USTs containing petroleum and hazardous substances, though there are some USTs, such as heating oil tanks, that are deferred from the BUSTR program. BUSTR derives its authority and carries out its responsibilities through 40 CFR Part 280, Ohio Revised Code 3737.88 and Ohio Administrative Code 1301:7-9.

BUSTR came into existence in 1987 and currently oversees a tank universe of approximately 24,900 USTs located at 8,700 facilities state wide. BUSTR views most marina environments as “sensitive areas” and requires USTs in these areas to have additional measures of protection such as double walled containment systems and more elaborate leak detection systems. In the event of a release from an UST in a sensitive area, owners must abide by clean up standards that are more stringent than is required in other areas.

State Fire Marshal
Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations
8895 East Main Street, P.O. Box 687, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068
(614) 752-7938Website


Source: Ohio Clean Marina Program Guidebook, 2012.


Ohio Clean Marina logoThe Ohio Clean Marinas Program is a proactive partnership designed to encourage marinas and boaters to use simple, innovative solutions to keep Ohio’s coastal and inland waterway resources clean. The program assists these operators in protecting the resources that provide their livelihood — clean water and fresh air.

The basic goal of the program is environmental stewardship by making marinas and boaters more aware of environmental laws, rules and jurisdictions, and to get as many marinas as possible to follow best management practices and to be designated as Clean Marinas.