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The Gainesville Sun has printed an article depicting the controversy concerning loosening no-wake rules during flood stage on the Santa Fe River. The FWC proposes dividing the lower SF from the mouth to River Rise into four separate zones, an idea which many see as logical. The agency also proposes raising the point at which flood conditions cause a no-wake speed limit to begin one foot higher than at present. Most home owners and environmentalists oppose this and want the trigger point lowered. Read the Sun article here and continue reading for a position paper of OSFR.
2070 SW County Road138 * Ft White * FL * 32038 * (386) 243-0322
July 7, 2015
Dear Florida Fish & Wildlife Commissioners and Capt. Gary Klein,
Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), Inc., not for profit and volunteer organization that works to educate and share information about the water quality and quantity of the Santa Fe River (SFR) and the Floridan Aquifer , appreciates the effort being made here to inform the public about water conditions on the Santa Fe River and FFWC ability to enforce laws associated with certain dangerous conditions.
As for the trigger for the flood stage currently being considered, flooding has been responsible for damage resulting in financial costs to homeowners and local governments. Based on previous conversations with FFWC about their mission to protect human safety with respect to flood stage, we would like FFWC to consult with the Florida Emergency Management that is responsible for the protection of property during flooding.
Part III. General Provisions. 62-40-310. General Policies. (3) (a) (c) (d) (f)
It is not necessary to raise the trigger for a “no wake” during flood stage. OSFR believes it necessary to lower the level of the trigger to enforce a “no wake’ on the Santa Fe River. The discussion at the previously held meetings for this issue offered a 3’ lowering overall. OSFR has larger boats use the river at all entry points on the SFR during flood stage creating wake conditions.
OSFR supports the intent of FFWC to declare four separate zones based on stage and water levels. We also request and support a new monitoring station at Wilson Springs, an area of the river that has a culturally significant spring and a residential community.
During the past several years, riparian and recreational users informed OSFR about unsafe motor vessels on the lower SFR. The concerns have mostly stemmed from motor boat wakes and unsafe proximity to unpowered boats, tubes, and swimmers. Congested areas have the highest frequency of complaints. Most of our knowledge comes from person to person conversations and from phone calls.
OSFR is requesting a study for a “waterway marker plan” as described in this Boat Waterway Marker Manual: http://myfwc.com/media/107062/Boat_WaterwayMarkerGuidelines.pdf
OSFR recognizes important habitat considerations such as the increased frequency of the federally endangered manatees and the recently discovered new species Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis). Manatees need high water for their migration. The 11 known species of turtles residing on this narrow waterway is significant in terms of the world, as our population accounts for 28% of the entire world. FFWC already has a strong conservation measures in place to protect turtle habitat. As a result of this knowledge, we hope the FFWC considers this information to support safe boating on the lower SFR.
OSFR requests the following three items to consider:
1. Lowering the trigger for enforcement of a “no wake” 3’ from current flood stage.
2. Establishing four separate zones based on gage station data.
3. Request study for a “waterway marker plan”.
Thank you for your consideration as this is an important safety matter for all users of the Santa Fe River.
Policy Director, Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
2070 SW County Road 138
Fort White, FL 32038
The following laws and documents are support materials for our request.
|The Constitution of the State of Florida, Article II General Provisions, Section 7 declares:
Natural resources and scenic beauty.—
(a)It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
Santa Fe River is an “Outstanding Florida Waters” OFW, 62-302.700 (9) (i) 28., and as such it is necessary to honor the following mandate by the FDEP (1) It shall be the Department policy to afford the highest protection to Outstanding Florida Waters and Outstanding National Resource Waters. No degradation of water quality.
Flooding: Florida Emergency Management that is responsible for the protection of property during high water conditions. Http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/rules/shared/62-40/62-40.doc
Part III. General Provisions. 62-40-310. General Policies. (3) (a) (c) (d) (f)
We recognize that water use safety is a primary concern of FFWC.
F.S. Chapter 327 Vessel Safety
327.44 Interference with navigation.
—No person shall anchor, operate, or permit to be anchored, except in case of emergency, or operated a vessel or carry on any prohibited activity in a manner which shall unreasonably or unnecessarily constitute a navigational hazard or interfere with another vessel. Anchoring under bridges or in or adjacent to heavily traveled channels shall constitute interference if unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances.
(1)Boating-restricted areas, including, but not limited to, restrictions of vessel speeds and vessel traffic, may be established on the waters of this state for any purpose necessary to protect the safety of the public if such restrictions are necessary based on boating accidents, visibility, hazardous currents or water levels, vessel traffic congestion, or other navigational hazards.
(a)The commission may establish boating-restricted areas by rule pursuant to chapter 120.
(b)Municipalities and counties have the authority to establish the following boating-restricted areas by ordinance:
1.An ordinance establishing an idle speed, no wake boating-restricted area, if the area is:
a.Within 500 feet of any boat ramp, hoist, marine railway, or other launching or landing facility available for use by the general boating public on waterways more than 300 feet in width or within 300 feet of any boat ramp, hoist, marine railway, or other launching or landing facility available for use by the general boating public on waterways not exceeding 300 feet in width.
b.Within 500 feet of fuel pumps or dispensers at any marine fueling facility that sells motor fuel to the general boating public on waterways more than 300 feet in width or within 300 feet of the fuel pumps or dispensers at any licensed terminal facility that sells motor fuel to the general boating public on waterways not exceeding 300 feet in width.
c.Inside or within 300 feet of any lock structure.
2.An ordinance establishing a slow speed, minimum wake boating-restricted area if the area is:
a.Within 300 feet of any bridge fender system.
b.Within 300 feet of any bridge span presenting a vertical clearance of less than 25 feet or a horizontal clearance of less than 100 feet.
c.On a creek, stream, canal, or similar linear waterway if the waterway is less than 75 feet in width from shoreline to shoreline.
d.On a lake or pond of less than 10 acres in total surface area.
3.An ordinance establishing a vessel-exclusion zone if the area is:
a.Designated as a public bathing beach or swim area.
b.Within 300 feet of a dam, spillway, or flood control structure.
(c)Municipalities and counties have the authority to establish by ordinance the following other boating-restricted areas:
1.An ordinance establishing an idle speed, no wake boating-restricted area, if the area is within 300 feet of a confluence of water bodies presenting a blind corner, a bend in a narrow channel or fairway, or such other area if an intervening obstruction to visibility may obscure other vessels or other users of the waterway.
2.An ordinance establishing a slow speed, minimum wake, or numerical speed limit boating-restricted area if the area is:
a.Within 300 feet of a confluence of water bodies presenting a blind corner, a bend in a narrow channel or fairway, or such other area if an intervening obstruction to visibility may obscure other vessels or other users of the waterway.
b.Subject to unsafe levels of vessel traffic congestion.
c.Subject to hazardous water levels or currents, or containing other navigational hazards.
d.An area that accident reports, uniform boating citations, vessel traffic studies, or other creditable data demonstrate to present a significant risk of collision or a significant threat to boating safety.
3.An ordinance establishing a vessel-exclusion zone if the area is reserved exclusively:
a.As a canoe trail or otherwise limited to vessels under oars or under sail.
b.For a particular activity and user group separation must be imposed to protect the safety of those participating in such activity.
OSFR also recognizes that the FFWC has the ability to create waterway markers to protect water safety and manatee zones. Both issues are important on the Santa Fe River.
(Rules 68C-22.002(1) and 68C-23.103(2)(a), FAC).
Although the Santa Fe River has not been designated as a Manatee Sanctuary, thermal refuge habitat, OSFR and its members are aware that sightings have become more frequent in the past 20 years. Please reference the work Lars Anderson and the Ichetucknee State Park Service have been working on for the past several years. We would like the studies to proceed in this area of Florida as inland waterways for a manatee area. Manatee Sanctuary Act (Chapter 370.12(2), Florida Statute (FS)) and Chapter 68C-22, FAC
OSFR also recognizes a need of conservation and management for the newly identified alligator snapping turtle found in the lower Santa Fe River and to be included in vessel traffic considerations. Habitat is crucial for Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis).
Habitat for the 11 native turtle species must be another consideration for FFWC. Research states “28% of all North American freshwater turtle species inhabit this small river system”.