East Pass No-Wake Attempt to Prevent Boat Accidents Needs Info

In a bid to cut down on boat accidents in the East Pass area, Okaloosa County filed an application in August with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to extend the no-wake zone in Destin Harbor. The agencies have rejected that application for lack of concrete evidence that extending the zone was necessary to protect public safety.

According to the Destin Log, Destin City Manager Greg Kisela expected the application for an extension of the “slow speed-minimum wake zone” to be a tough sell to the agencies, as well as being unpopular with some boat captains.

“We didn’t have sufficient documentation about specific accidents or anything; we just had anecdotal documentation,” said Kisela.

The application was based on a Destin City Council resolution asking Okaloosa County to extend the no-wake zone in Destin Harbor south to the northern end of the jetties. It also requested navigation markers at points near the entrance to Destin Harbor, at the intersection of the East Pass Channel and the Old Pass Lagoon Channel.

Would Extending the No-Wake Zone Prevent Boat Accidents or Just Slow Traffic?

Former city councilman Kelly Windes, a charter boat captain himself, proposed the extended no-wake zone at a City Council meeting nearly a year ago. He proposed the change not only to prevent boat accidents but also to reduce erosion on Norriego Point.

“The present no-wake zone needs expanding,” said Windes at that meeting. “Some fishermen are against this – I guess I, myself was one of them, but… we’ve got more jet-skiers, more pontoon riders.”

He cited the fact that “all the boats will be inside the jetties catching fish and yachts just come barreling through” in the mornings, according to the Destin Log.

Windes doubted that the slowdown of traffic out of Destin Harbor would outweigh the safety concerns.

“It’s just a safety factor; those of us who see it on a daily basis know it’s a concern,” Windes said in an interview. “In all actuality, it was only about four minutes difference in travel time.”

If You Know of a Boat Accident or Traffic Problem in the Area, Contact the Destin City Council or the FWC

The application for the extended no-wake zone can be resubmitted if the County can obtain documentation that there is a significant risk to boating safety. For example, the FWC would be interested in:

  • Evidence that water levels or currents in the area endanger boats or operators in the area
  • Data showing that boating traffic levels are higher than in the past
  • Facts showing a significant risk of boating accidents or a threat to boating safety
  • Accident reports or reports of marine injury, casualty or wrongful death

Kisela says that Destin or Okaloosa County would resubmit the application if they can obtain sufficient evidence to justify the change.

Source: Destin Log, “Minimum wake zone request a no go for East Pass,” Matt Algarin, October 29, 2010