Today the FWC met in Fort Lauderdale to pass judgement on several items, some being changes to the rules on the Santa Fe River. Policy Director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson made the long trip and addressed the Commission. Following is what took place; the original article by Christopher Curry in the Gainesville sun can be seen here.
FWC approves changes to loosen no-wake zone on Santa Fe
Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
By Christopher Curry
Published: Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 3:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 3:13 p.m.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously approved changes to loosen the no-wake rules for boats on the Santa Fe River at a meeting Thursday in Fort Lauderdale
The approved change breaks a 36-mile stretch of the river into four zones — each with its own gauge to determine when the water reaches the level that would trigger an idle-speed, no-wake zone.
Right now, that full stretch goes into a no-wake zone for boaters when a gauge hits 17 feet near Three Rivers Estates, not far from the Ichetucknee River.
FWC Maj. Richard Moore, head of the Boating and Waterways Section, told the commission the changes were proposed after a resident along the river questioned some why some areas were included in no-wake, idle-speed zones when flooding happens miles downstream. Moore said FWC has also heard that concern from boaters.
Before Thursday’s meeting, FWC officials had already dropped a proposal to raise the trigger for a no-wake zone on the lower part of the river from 17 feet to 18 feet. That plan drew significant public opposition at a well-attended meeting in Fort White in July.
With the FWC meeting taking place several hours away from the Santa Fe, only one member of the public spoke.
Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson — policy director for Our Santa Fe River, president of Save Our Suwannee and co-owner of a canoe and kayak rental business — said speeding boats make the river dangerous for kayaking, canoeing or tubing and that water kicked up by the wakes pounds the banks and washes onto properties.
She expects the spike in boating activity during the upcoming Labor Day weekend to bring more speed and wake issues.
“It’s absolutely a nightmare if you have ever been on this area of the river during a holiday weekend or a really busy weekend,” Malwitz-Jipson said.
The changes approved Thursday will be final unless a member of the public requests another hearing on the issue, FWC officials said.