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THING TO KNOW Before asking for a BRIDGE OPENING and getting water over trouble bridges in USA in-land waters...

Captains consult your charts for the note on heights whenever they are available;
Refer to nautical charts and hopes that the bridge you are looking at is listed;
Or if you have a more sophisticated electronic chart plotter it should be listed;

When you approach a bridge keep an eye out on the right side of the bridge should be the "clearance board" or ¨water level gauge¨

This sign will give you the minimum clearance, in feet, from the current water level to the bridge structure. This allows you to determine if you can safely clear the bridge.

You should know the vertical clearance of your boat before you ever plan a trip! Do not cause unnecessary openings of bridges, it is illegal and you may get fined.

You may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties for causing an unnecessary bridge opening because of "any nonstructural vessel appurtenance which is not essential to navigation or which is easily lowered."

Sec. 117.11  Unnecessary opening of the draw.

    No vessel owner or operator shall--

    (a) Signal a drawbridge to open if the vertical clearance is
sufficient to allow the vessel, after all lowerable nonstructural
vessel appurtenances that are not essential to navigation have been
lowered, to safely pass under the drawbridge in the closed position; or
    (b) Signal a drawbridge to open for any purpose other than to pass
through the drawbridge opening.

Dated: April 1, 1994.
W.J. Ecker,
Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Chief, Office of Navigation Safety and
Waterway Services.
[FR Doc. 94-8371 Filed 4-6-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-14-M

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
33 CFR Part 117

 § 117.11   Unnecessary opening of the draw. No vessel owner or operator shall—
(a) Signal a drawbridge to open if the vertical clearance is sufficient to allow the vessel, after all lowerable nonstructural vessel appurtenances that are not essential to navigation have been lowered, to safely pass under the drawbridge in the closed position;
[CGD 91–059, 59 FR 16563, Apr. 7, 1994]

 In other words, if the only thing making you open the bridge is your VHF antenna or outriggers, take them down.

 These same regulations also provide penalties for any bridge tender who "unnecessarily delays the opening of a drawbridge after the required signal has been given."§ 117.9   Delaying opening of a draw. No person shall unreasonably delay the opening of a draw after the signals required by §117.15 have been given.

33 USC § 499 - Regulations for drawbridges

(a) Criminal penalties for violations; enforcement; rules and regulations
It shall be the duty of all persons owning, operating, and tending the drawbridges built prior to August 18, 1894, or which may thereafter be built across the navigable rivers and other waters of the United States, to open, or cause to be opened, the draws of such bridges under such rules and regulations as in the opinion of the Secretary of Transportation the public interests require to govern the opening of drawbridges for the passage of vessels and other water crafts, and such rules and regulations, when so made and published, shall have the force of law. Every such person who shall willfully fail or refuse to open, or cause to be opened, the draw of any such bridge for the passage of a boat or boats, as provided in such regulations, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 nor less than $1,000, or by imprisonment (in the case of a natural person) for not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court: Provided, That the proper action to enforce the provisions of this subsection may be commenced before any magistrate judge, judge, or court of the United States, and such magistrate judge, judge, or court shall proceed in respect thereto as authorized by law in case of crimes against the United States: Provided further, That whenever, in the opinion of the Secretary of Transportation, the public interests require it, he may make rules and regulations to govern the opening of drawbridges for the passage of vessels and other water crafts, and such rules and regulations, when so made and published, shall have the force of law, and any willful violation thereof shall be punished as hereinbefore provided: Provided further, That any regulations made in pursuance of this section may be enforced as provided in section 413 of this title, the provisions whereof are made applicable to the said regulations. Any rules and regulations made in pursuance of this section shall, to the extent practical and feasible, provide for regularly scheduled openings of drawbridges during seasons of the year, and during times of the day, when scheduled openings would help reduce motor vehicle traffic delays and congestion on roads and highways linked by drawbridges.
(b) Nonstructural vessel appurtenances; unreasonable delays
No vessel owner or operator shall signal a drawbridge to open for any nonstructural vessel appurtenance which is not essential to navigation or which is easily lowered and no person shall unreasonably delay the opening of a draw after the signal required by rules or regulations under this section has been given. The Secretary of Transportation shall issue rules and regulations to implement this subsection.
(c) Civil penalties for violation; notice and hearing; assessment, collection, and remission; civil actions
Whoever violates any rule or regulation issued under subsection (a) or (b) of this section, shall be liable to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for a violation occurring in 2004; $10,000 for a violation occurring in 2005; $15,000 for a violation occurring in 2006; $20,000 for a violation occurring in 2007; and $25,000 for a violation occurring in 2008 and any year thereafter. No penalty may be assessed under this subsection until the person charged is given notice and an opportunity for a hearing on the charge. The Secretary of Transportation may assess and collect any civil penalty incurred under this subsection and, in his discretion, may remit, mitigate, or compromise any penalty until the matter is referred to the Attorney General. If a person against whom a civil penalty is assessed under this subsection fails to pay that penalty, an action may be commenced in the district court of the United States for any district in which the violation occurs for such penalty.