A large, mostly hostile but polite group crowded into a stifling hot Fort White Community Center on Thursday night to pose many questions to the FWC, only to receive few satisfactory answers. These mostly riparian owners on the Santa Fe were there to make known their wishes to the FWC that they did not want looser speed rules for boaters, and that they were concerned for safety and also wake-caused damage to shorelines property.
But the FWC did not want to discuss river protection, shoreline erosion nor a no-wake zone for the entire river, and when this was announced by Captain Klein, a group of people left the meeting because that was their concern. The FWC sees their mandate as safety only and sees no need to consult with other state agencies who have various forms of jurisdiction over the river, these being the Florida Emergency Management, Suwannee River Water Management, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Others who spoke felt the meeting was a waste of time because the concern was that the decision to loosen the trigger level at which the flood generated no-wake rules took effect had already been made.
Others were unhappy that the reason the rule change was being pushed forward in spite of all the opposition was because a single individual had written a letter requesting it. More than one person pointed out that public feedback on this issue had been strongly and unanimously in opposition, and totally outweighed one single letter.
Every opportunity had been given before the well-publicized meeting to allow power-boaters to appear at the meeting and give their view, but not a single one spoke.
The FWC was called out on several issues, among them the lack of response by the agency when complaints were called in, the inaccessibility of the one special number required to report incidents, the fact that the agency did not consult with Florida Emergency Management, who is responsible for property protection during floods, before proposing rule changes, and the fact that the agency chooses to ignore the wording giving protection to the Santa Fe River under Outstanding Florida Waters category, which prohibits activity which “… will adversely affect navigation or the flow of water or cause harmful erosion or shoaling.”
On these issues there were no satisfactory explanations given.
The decision of the Commission will be made public in November.
Meanwhile, the people have spoken.