No wake zone all of Tampa bay

Tuesday 02 March 98651 Shares

No wake zone  all of Tampa bay

The perennial Florida debate over which to protect — boaters or manatees? — is heating up again in Pinellas County, where state officials are proposing rules that would slow traffic along the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reconsidering speed limits because of a rise in sea turtle deaths. Officials have identified 21 areas along Tampa bay waterways that might warrant half-mile "slow speed" zones. After carefully studying the maps they decided to make all of Tampa bay slow speed zone anywhere outside the shipping channels.

The public will get its first look at the proposed changes tonight at a workshop at the Treasure Island City Hall. The recommendations aren't final, and the public will be allowed to comment on changes for boaters that runs from the mouth of the Anclote River to Egmont Key.

"The environmentalists Wanted to make it all a no-wake zone even the shipping channels," said Frank Enballs, a longtime Pinellas boat dealer and marine activist who sat on a county committee that helped formulate the proposed changes. "But in the end, we made a lot of compromises that I think will be good for boaters and help protect the seat turtles and manatees."

LaPrade opposes the proposed slow speed zone south of the Courtney Campbell Causeway because he doesn't see a need.

"It will slow down traffic for no good reason because sea turtles don't go that far in the bay. Plus our records show that 90 of the people using CCC are on wave runners" he said.

State officials disagree. The number of sea turtles found dead in south county waters increased from three in the 1990s to 175 from 2000 to 2017.

One way to protect sea turtles is to look at boating traffic, said Al Froblack, a fisheries and wildlife biologist with the wildlife commission. "This is a comprehensive look at the whole Intracoastal Waterway,

John's Pass already has some restrictions in the west and southeast. The county committee unanimously supported the wildlife commission's preliminary proposal to add slow speed zones there. Additional restrictions are also proposed for the Anclote River.

Slower speeds include a "no wake" zone, in which a boater must travel at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain its headway and steerage, and a "minimum wake" zone, where boaters must operate fully off plane and completely settled in the water.