No Wake Zones

Definition and Statutory Authority

A “No Wake Zone” is an area within which vessels are required to travel at idling speed – slow speed that creates no appreciable wake. North Carolina General Statute §75A-15 authorizes the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to establish water safety rules solely in the interest of mitigating water safety hazards. Rules adopted for placement of waterway markers establishing No Wake Zones also may be subject to approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and in coastal counties by the Division of Coastal Management of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

Where to Find No Wake Zone Rules

No Wake Zones that have been adopted by rulemaking may be found in the North Carolina Administrative Code (NCAC) under Title 15A, Subchapter 10F .0300 (Local Water Safety Regulations). Rules are listed by county and occasionally by municipality. No Wake Zones also may be adopted by Session Laws of the NC General Assembly and federal laws. No Wake Zones can be viewed in the Boating Access Areas map.    

Before you apply...  

By NCGS §75A-15(b), applications for water safety rulemaking must be submitted by the county or municipality with jurisdiction over their waters. No Wake Zones may be established in public trust waters only to mitigate hazards to boating safety. Hazards to boating safety may include known navigational hazards; narrow shallow waters; areas of obstructed vision; structures in the area such as dams, spillways, flood control structures, trestles and power lines, and fueling docks; designated recreational or marked swimming areas; congested areas with high traffic; a history of accidents, and public vessel access areas.

The Commission does not enact No Wake Zones to mitigate erosion, noise, and property damage.

There is no North Carolina statute that establishes No Wake Zones around docks and piers.

No Wake Zones in Federally Maintained Waters 

The NCWRC does not have statutory authority to do rulemaking for No Wake Zones within federal waters such as the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) without the concurrence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). USACE maintains the AIWW with federal funds in support of interstate commercial navigation traffic. With rare exceptions USACE does not concur with establishment of No Wake Zones along the open reaches of the AIWW. No Wake Zone signage placed on private property along the AIWW, and without the concurrence of USACE does not mark a legitimate No Wake Zone and is not enforceable.

Any request for water safety rulemaking on the AIWW must be submitted to USACE, Wilmington District, Navigation Branch for consideration. Please note that the NCWRC must have concurrence from USACE to enact a No Wake or restricted vessel zone, or to place a structure in federal waters managed by USACE.  

No Wake Zones in Coastal Counties

The 20 coastal counties are subject to permitting requirements under the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA). The NCWRC has obtained a Programmatic Major CAMA Permit for water safety rulemaking in these counties. The applicant is NOT responsible for obtaining necessary CAMA permits.

Tab/Accordion Items

New Hanover

No Wake Zones Established by Marine Commissions in Some Inland Waters

The Lake Norman Marine Commission and Lake Wylie Marine Commission oversee the application process for No Wake Zones on their respective lakes. 
Contact the Lake Norman Marine Commission.
Contact the Lake Wylie Marine Commission.

Water Safety Rulemaking Process - Flowchart

Before a county or municipality begins the application process, contact the No Wake Zone Coordinator at (919) 707-0013 or at Request in writing an assessment of boater safety hazards by the NCWRC Law Enforcement Division. Provide the No Wake Zone Coordinator with the county or municipality name, name and location of the body of water, accurate directions or GPS coordinates to get to the site, and indicate the clear statutory hazards to boating safety that may exist and that you believe require regulation of that area of the waters.

Agency Law Enforcement staff will conduct an assessment of the area and submit a Matrix with comments about boater safety hazards that may warrant rulemaking. The county or municipality will be provided with a copy of the Assessment Matrix and may decide to begin the application process under NCGS §75A.

How to Apply

The county or municipality submits the formal No Wake Zone Application (Form D-1) for consideration by the 19-member NCWRC Board.

The application packet must consist of:

1. Statement that public notice was given of the intention to make application to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for the Rule that is being proposed.

2. A Resolution from the governmental unit requesting rulemaking for the waters named in the application.

3. Statement that the local unit of government or a designee agrees to purchase and place markers that conform to U.S. Aids to Navigation (USATONS) standards to implement a rule.

If a local unit of government incurs the expense for purchase and placement of markers, NCWRC is required to submit a Fiscal Note to the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to report the fiscal impact of a Rule on the state or local unit of government.

Email the application packet to or mail it to:          

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Attn:  Betsy Haywood, No Wake Zone Coordinator
1721 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1721


After Application Submittal

The NCWRC will consider the application packet at an official meeting for possible action to proceed with rulemaking. And, if necessary, the agency will provide a Fiscal Note that has been reviewed by OSBM, for approval by NCWRC. The Commission may approve or deny a request for rulemaking, or it may approve a proposed rule with modifications. With Commission approval, the rulemaking process begins.

The Notice of Text for the rule proposal is published for at least 60 days in the North Carolina Register, with a open comment period and public hearing, per the requirements of the NC Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and on the NCWRC website at After the comment period closes, the rule proposal and any comments received are presented at an official NCWRC meeting for final adoption.

Following adoption of the rule by NCWRC vote, the rule is submitted to the Rules Review Commission (RRC) for approval. If the RRC approves the rule for clarity, necessity, statutory authority and adherence to the requirements of the APA, it is codified in the NCAC and usually becomes effective on the first day of the month following that approval.

Every proposed rule is subject to adoption by the NCWRC, fiscal review by the OSBM, and final determination by the RRC as to necessity, clarity and statutory authority of the Rule. A Rule may not be codified in the NCAC without final review by the RRC.

Some Additional Requirements

The U.S. Coast Guard requires completion of a Personal Aids to Navigation (PATON) application prior to securing buoys or markers to the bottom of United States waters. There is no charge for a PATON application; however, fines may be levied for placement of an unauthorized PATON. It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Officer at (757) 398-6229 for information about requirements for the PATON application.

Is it Legal? Is it Enforceable? 

Enforcement of No Wake Zones is limited to those areas that have been established by federal and state rulemaking or legislation and that are properly marked. No Wake Zones must display regulatory signs or buoys that conform to the standards of the U.S. Aids Navigation (USATONS). A No Wake marker that does not conform to USATONS standards or that has been placed in public trust waters without authorization is subject to removal.

An unmarked No Wake Zone is not enforceable.

The local unit of government or its designee is responsible for the purchase and placement of No Wake markers. Unless otherwise specified in the rule, the responsibility for maintenance of markers rests with the agency. The applicant or its designee may obtain technical assistance from the NCWRC Land and Water Access Division at (919) 707-0150.

Remember, no regulatory marker or navigational aid may be placed in the waters of the State without the express permission of the NCWRC.

For more information about No Wake Zones, please contact Betsy Haywood at (919) 707-0013 or by email: