CLEARWATER – On February 3rd of this year, a little known ordinance was passed by the City Council extending the minimum wake zone in Mandalay Channel to the northern end of Island Estates. This zone used to begin at Green Marker #1 approximately 300 to 400 yards to the south of the northern end of Island Estates.
City officials passed the ordinance after receiving numerous complaints regarding large damaging wakes created from boaters speeding by. At least one person who complained to the Council stated his daughter had been injured by a large wake that rocked her boat so much she fell and injured herself. Condos owners who have boat slips just to the east of Green Marker #1's current position, also stated boats with large wakes were creating a safety hazard to their residents trying to dock, board or un-board their boats.
No enforcement of the new zone has occurred up until now because all speed zone restrictions have to be approved by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Law Enforcement who has the statutory responsibility for ensuring that the placement of waterway markers within state waters adhere to all state and federal requirements. The Office is also charged with insuring that regulatory markers are only posted for specific purposes as defined by law. Regulatory markers noticing boating restricted areas are authorized only for the purposes of protecting human life and limb, vessel traffic safety and maritime property, and manatees.
This approval has been obtained by the FWC and new markers indicating "Slow Speed Minimum Wake" were placed in the channel last week. However, local boaters, who have been used to the old zones appear to be ignoring the new markers. Boaters should take notice that the Marine patrol units of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department, the U. S. Coast Guard and the Florida Marine Patrol are now enforcing the new zone.
Clearwater's harbor master, Mr. William Morris and the Marine Advisory Board are currently working on recommendations to the City Council for a comprehensive Waterway Management Plan encompassing all of the waterways for the entire city. They are also working on Boating Education Flyers that will be available at the City's Marina and other places to help inform boaters of safety issues.
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