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Water-scooter users get reprieve // Restricted sites urged at Dunedin Causeway

The city's advisory committee on coastal management recommended this week that users of Jet Skis and similar watercraft be allowed a spot on the Dunedin Causeway. Lee Niblock, the city's director of leisure services, presented a

compromise at the group's meeting Tuesday designed to satisfy a call for more safety at the popular weekend spot.

The Causeway and Coastal Advisory Committee originally recommended that the City Commission ban the launching and retrieval of motorized watercraft on the causeway.

"The committee seemed to want safety, but they didn't want to tell people they couldn't use the causeway, either," Niblock said Thursday.

The proposal recommends that separate areas on the south side of the causeway be designated for sailboaters, swimmers and water scooter users. Water scooters would be allowed on the eastern portion near a drawbridge. Swimmers are to be relegated to the middle portion.

Non-motorized (sail) watercraft are to launch on the westernmost side.

The north side of the causeway was not included in Niblock's proposal, he said, because it is rocky, full of seaweed and used mainly by people who are fishing.

The three groups are to share a one-and-a-half-mile area, Niblock said.

The proposal also calls for the replacement of sand that shifted from the beaches' shore during Hurricane Elena.

Joseph Mulvaney, a member of the coastal management committee, said he still believes the water-scooter operators are dangerous but "everyone has a right to exist."

The City Commission by a 3-2 vote tentatively decided last month to ban the launching and retrieval of motorized watercraft from the causeway, citing the hazards of reckless water-scooter users.

The ruling met with disapproval from a contingent of water-scooter

loyalists who said the city was ruling against all residents for the unlawful acts of a few.

At the meeting, the commission did open the door to further discussion of a plan that would allow limited use.

Commissioner Bob Barber, who voted against the ordinance, pointed out that the plan mirrored a motion passed by the commission in August.

At that time, city commissioners directed staff to look into a designated area for the launching and retrieval of motorized watercraft and establish no-wake zones and placement of buoys and markers in the water near the causeway. The plan was never carried out.

Mayor Manuel Koutsourais suggested banning only water-scooter use.

Commissioners Paul Braun and Donald Shaffer suggested building a launching ramp on the causeway's less-congested north side.

The City Commission is to decide on the new ordinance in March.

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