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River's no-wake zone limited to Nov. to March

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Nude-dance club owner Joe Redner and most of the Tampa City Council found themselves in an unusual place Thursday _ on the same side of a controversy over public policy.

Redner was one of about a half-dozen people who own homes on the Hillsborough River who persuaded council members to reconsider a year-round "no-wake" zone on the river.

A frequent critic of City Hall, Redner kept his remarks brief. But, he said, telling people they can't cruise down the river because boat wakes are destructive is like building a road and telling motorists they can't drive on it.

Actually, the effect of boat wakes on sea walls and bridge pillars played, at most, a minor role in the establishment of the idle-speed zone about a year ago.

Instead, council members created a no-wake zone from Harbour Island to Columbus Drive so power boats speeding on the river would not swamp or run over crews rowing out of the University of Tampa.

Baker Jordan, a member of the University of Tampa Rowing Association, said larger "cigarette" boats rarely slow down when approaching the university's launching ramp.

"I have been deathly afraid that a 67-foot (rowing) shell with eight kids in it was going to be halved by one of these people as they come around that bridge, which is a blind spot, and come up on UT," Jordan said.

In recent months, however, boaters have complained that rowing crews do not use the river year-round. Having to idle down the river, they say, stretches a 15-minute trip to the bay into a two-hour journey. In some parts of town, slowing down also exposes them to rock-throwing youths.

Riverfront homeowner Eddy Hauer urged council members to eliminate the no-wake zone from Harbour Island to the Cass Street bridge. UT's rowing crews, he said, should use Seddon Channel.

"They race there _ let them practice there," he said. "We are being denied use of our river."

Most council members agreed that they overlooked the concerns of power boat owners when they created the no-wake zone.

In response, they voted to enforce the idle-speed limit only from November through March, when rowing is most popular.