Council wants boaters to slow down on the Hillsborough
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07/16/09 Mitch E. Perry
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After receiving complaints from water taxi companies, the Tampa City Council in May asked their staff to review boating speeds through the part of the Hillsborough River that cuts through downtown.

Currently, there is a mile-long stretch from Kennedy Boulevard up to the Rick's on the River restaurant where there is no limit on boaters' speed.

Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena told City Attorney Chip Fletcher that her concern was risk to water taxis and those in the rowing community.

But a Tampa Police Department official said that an official from Tallahassee is not sympathetic to creating a new No Wake Zone area.

Sergeant Allan Draffen is in charge of Marine Petrol with the Tampa Police Department, and has been dealing with the issue since 2002. He said that an official with the Florida Fish & Wildlife didn’t think that the area qualified to be listed as a No Wake Zone at that time.

Sergeant Draffen said that there had not been any reports of accidents in the area. Councilwoman Saul-Sena said that she had heard of several incidents that were narrowly avoided, and would advise rowers to start documenting such incidents.

Sergeant Draffen said that such incidents were not always the boater's fault.

But Councilwoman Saul-Sena said she knows of boaters who get frustrated by the no wake zones that are to the north and south of the part of the Hillsborough. She says once they get through that no wake zone, they accelerate.

Sergeant Draffin said the state might be more receptive to a lowered speed limit, or dissolve the current wake zone and extend a longer more comprehensive wake zone.

He said that to change the situation, the City Council must draft an ordinance. It would then have to reviewed by a number of local and federal agencies.

Councilman Charlie Miranda was on the City Council in 2002, the last time the wake zone issue on the River was discussed. He said the issue was more complex than some of his colleagues laid it out to be.

City Attorney Chip Fletcher said he would research the issue and come back before Council in the fall.

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