Act 91 of 1998 (Act of June 18, 1998 (P.L. 702, No. 91)),went into effect on January 1, 1999. Governor Ridge
signed House Bill 10 into law in June 1998.
This law amends the Fish and Boat Code and applies to owners of existing run-of-the-river dams and permittees for
the construction or installation of new run-of-the-river dams. It requires them to mark the areas above and below
the dams and on the banks immediately adjacent to the dams with signs and buoys to warn the swimming, fishing and
boating public of the hazards posed by the dam.
Under this law, the owners of dams identified by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as meeting the
statutory definition of a “run-of-the-river” dam must mark the dam and its environs with signs and buoys.
The design and content of these signs and buoys is determined by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC),
after consultation with DEP. The signs are intended to warn the swimming, fishing and boating public of the hazards
posed by the dam. Act 1998-91 provides that the PFBC shall publish the guidelines establishing the size, location
and content of the signs and buoys as a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and may from time-to-time modify them
as circumstances require.
On February 27, 1999, the PFBC published a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (29 Pa.B. 1137) containing the proposed
guidelines for the contents and location of signs to mark run-of-the-river dam. As a result of the comments received
in response to these proposed guidelines, the PFBC, in consultation with DEP, modified them to provide different requirements
for marking smaller dams. These modified requirements were sent to each owner of a run-of-the-river dam identified
by DEP under Act 91, with a further invitation for comments and suggestions to be submitted on or before June 15,
The PFBC received numerous comments focusing on the issue of whether an exclusion zone should be required for smaller
dams. Many of the comments related to Benton Dam in Columbia County.
The PFBC staff have reviewed and considered the comments. We believe it is clear that Act 1998-91 was intended to,
and did, give the PFBC, in consultation with DEP, the authority to require marking of enforceable exclusion zones
around run-of-the-river dams. The Act states that the Commission will establish requirements for the content of the
signs, and subsection (h)(3) (30 Pa.C.S.§
3510(h)(3)) establishes a penalty for persons who enter “an exclusion zone marked under the provisions of this
The more difficult question is whether Act 1998-91 allows for the possibility of marking dams with signs that do
not create an exclusion zone. Although marking an exclusion zone is clearly referred to in the Act, the PFBC has broad
discretion, within the intent of the law, to specify the contents of the warning signs and buoys. If the signs merely
warn about the dangers of the dam but do not create an exclusion zone, then no exclusion zone will exist around the
dam in question. In promulgating these final guidelines, the PFBC staff have decided to give the owners of certain
small run-of-the-river dams the option to place warning signs that do not create an exclusion zone in limited circumstances.
This change to the proposed guidelines addresses many of the comments and concerns expressed about the original guidelines.
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide statewide guidance for marking of run-of-the-river dams and the design
of signs and buoys and their placement and maintenance. Compliance with the standards and guidelines established by
the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is required to meet the requirements of Act 1998-91 and to provide effective
and efficient visual aids (signs and buoys) that meet safety standards at these lowhead dams.