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Aids to Navigation Program (ATON)

The closest things to signs on the water are aids to navigation (ATON). The purpose of ATON is to help boaters avoid problems on the water and for navigation when used in combination with a nautical chart. ATON includes buoys and daymarks (or dayboards). The U.S. Aids to Navigation System has been adopted by the Commission for use on all Commonwealth waters.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) manages two Aids to Navigation programs for state regulated ATON:  Private Aids to Navigation and ATON Plans. These programs are applicable to ATON on state waterways. 

Private Aids to Navigation

Private aids to navigation are buoys that an individual or organization wants to place permanently or temporarily on Commonwealth waters for private use. These buoys may include slow, no-wake buoys near private docks, or temporary markings for approved regattas or races. Purchasing, positioning, setting, and maintenance of private aids is the responsibility of the applicant. Permanent private aids must be marked with the PFBC permit number. Private aid permits are valid from January through December for one year and must be renewed before the start of the following year to remain valid.  Applications for private aids are made using PFBC Form 277: Application for Permit to Install Floating Structures and Private Aids to Navigation. Instructions for completing the application are included on the form. Applications must be submitted to the address on the form, along with a $10 application fee.

ATON Plans

Submission of an ATON plan is required whenever a project may impact safe navigation on a Commonwealth waterway. The Guidelines for PFBC ATON Plans contains resources helpful for determining whether an ATON plan is required. Consultants, engineering firms, or other applicable entities may inquire with PFBC to determine if a plan is required if unsure after reading the guidelines. ATON plans must meet submission requirements which are outlined in Guidelines for PFBC ATON Plans.

For questions regarding ATON requirements for projects on federal waterways, please contact the servicing US Coast Guard Unit:

Report a Missing or Damaged State Owned Buoy
If you have a report of a missing, damaged or off station State owned buoy, please send an email here

ATON Manual

The Commission’s Aids to Navigation Policy Manual provides boaters with information regarding how to read and understand aids to navigation, marking special circumstances such as wrecks, control zones and anchorages, and a variety of useful links and diagrams. Additionally,  the Manual provides detailed policy guidance for engineering and consulting firms preparing ATON plans for construction projects.

Thank you for helping to keep Pennsylvania's waters safe!