Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FWC proposal would widen low-wake zones in Clearwater, Dunedin

A boat, bottom of photo, avoids the channel, and the low-wake zone, under the Memorial Causeway while the boat closer to the marina is in the official channel and low-wake zone.


A boat, bottom of photo, avoids the channel, and the low-wake zone, under the Memorial Causeway while the boat closer to the marina is in the official channel and low-wake zone.

CLEARWATER — Speeding boaters.

They zip around the regulatory signs posted along the Intracoastal Waterway. They throw up walls of water that erode marina supports and bang against docked vessels. They endanger traveling boaters who actually obey the rules.

Tired of it, Clearwater officials reached out to the state for help, which has come up with a plan that it hopes will stop the scofflaws in their tracks: an expansion of the "slow speed, minimum wake" zone in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Memorial Causeway Bridge.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a public workshop Thursday to present and receive comment on its proposal for the Memorial Causeway. The agency is also proposing a wake zone expansion for the area of the Dunedin Causeway, where there have been similar complaints.

"People are cutting in and out of the channel to get out of the (low wake) zone, " said FWC planner Ryan Moreau.

Added Clearwater harbormaster Bill Morris: "While we have an existing wake zone, we are trying to expand it just so people would slow down."

For Clearwater, FWC officials say, the proposal would update wake zone boundaries originally adopted when a lower, narrow drawbridge connected the mainland and the beaches. The problem of speeding boaters has grown since the 74-foot-tall Memorial Causeway Bridge was completed in 2005, providing enough width for boats to legally speed under the high arc by traveling a few feet east or west of the narrow low-wake zone.

Under current rules, the low-speed zone starts 500 feet south of the Memorial Causeway Bridge and continues to the Seminole boat docks north of downtown. FWC has recommended lengthening the slow-speed zone another 715 feet to the south; the north boundary would stay the same.

Under both the Clearwater and Dunedin bridges, the state also wants to widen the slow-speed zone east and west, encompassing the entire bridge spans rather than just a narrow portion.

Clearwater's request seems to authenticate the concerns of critics of the $2.8 million Clearwater Harbor Marina, who said that waves from the wide Intracoastal Waterway would gradually damage the marina.

So far, Morris said, the damage has been minimal, limited to a few outer pilings.

The city installed state-of-the-art wave attenuators. However, Morris told the City Council last year that boaters often cruise at high speed before throttling down abruptly at the low-wake line, causing waves as high as two feet to continue to batter vessels tied to docks just outside the attenuators.

The city's marina advisory board last year recommended that Clearwater ask the state to widen the wake zone.

For the last six months, FWC personnel in Tallahassee remotely monitored Intracoastal boat traffic from cameras mounted on the docks. While they were at it, agency officials decided to review boat rules throughout the rest of Pinellas County, too.

FWC officers who patrol Honeymoon Island complained that small vessels tend to speed around the narrow wake zone under the Dunedin Causeway Bridge. "It causes a little bit of a safety issue for our officers that folks would be cutting through this area so fast," Moreau said, "so we thought it would be prudent" to also expand the wake zone there.

As part of the countywide review, FWC is also proposing changes to its 20-year-old maps and rule language for clarity.

"The only thing that's changing is how it's worded so it's more clear and concise so boaters and law enforcement can understand where the zone is going to be," Moreau said.

Any input or new ideas that the public presents at Thursday's meeting would undergo an internal review for possible incorporation into the FWC's plan.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at

If you go

What: Public workshop on proposed expansion of low-wake zones under the Memorial Causeway and Dunedin Causeway bridges

Who: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Clearwater Community Sailing Center, 1001 Gulf Blvd. on Sand Key in Clearwater

Info: Contact Ryan Moreau, FWC planner, at (850) 617-9547 or The agency's presentation, as well as a link the public can use to email comments before, during or after the workshop, will be uploaded to the FWC website this week.

FWC proposal would widen low-wake zones in Clearwater, Dunedin 08/31/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 8:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bowen: Humanitarian Roy Hardy raised hope, diminished hunger


    The lines on Roy Hardy's resume are simple: retailer, rancher, amateur barbecue chef, recreational fisherman.

     Philanthropist Roy Hardy, shown here in 2007, stirs up the baked beans at a Kiwanis club charity fish fry. Mr. Hardy died Sept. 19 at the age of 93.

  2. Halloween Horror Nights: 'The Shining,' 'Saw' and more things to give you nightmares at Universal Orlando


    The 27th year of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights will scare the pants off you -- in the best possible way.

    The scare zone inspired by horror flick Trick r' Treat is one of the most beautiful at this year's Halloween Horror Nights 27.
  3. 10th resident from sweltering Hollywood nursing home dies

    Public Safety

    A 10th person from the Hollywood nursing home that turned into a deadly hothouse after the facility lost power following Hurricane Irma has died, Hollywood police said.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  4. Feeling mental fatigue after Hurricane Irma and other disasters? It's real.


    TAMPA — Blackness. Eyes closed or open, the same.

    A Tampa Bay Times reporter in a sensory deprivation tank used for floating therapy at Sacred Floats & Gems Co. located at 6719 N Nebraska Avenue, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Floating therapy relaxes people because they experience a sense of zero gravity when they are inside the tank, which contains 150 gallons of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salt. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  5. Trump vows more sanctions on North Korea


    President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to impose more sanctions on North Korea as he prepared to meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to seek a common strategy in confronting the isolated nuclear-armed state.

    U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 19, 2017. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in New York described as "the sound of a dog barking" Trump's threat to destroy his country. [Associated Press]