Jupiter, Tequesta and Jupiter Inlet Colony all have approved resolutions to extend the no-wake zone for boaters in north county, but so far there hasn’t been any action.
Why the delay?
Reviews and approvals by Palm Beach County, the U.S. Coast Guard and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are required to pass regulations to get boaters to slow down on the one-mile stretch of Intracoastal Waterway north of Cato’s Bridge, which goes from Tequesta to Jupiter Island.
No dates for public hearings have been set.
“This is not just a boating safety issue… it’s also an environmental issue,” says Jupiter Inlet Colony’s Chip Block. “Getting the boaters to slow down would not only protect swimmers snorkelers, it would reduce the number of manatees getting hit.”
When asked about public hearings, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Public Information Officer Robert Klepper responded by e-mail: “Currently, the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section does not have a hearing scheduled on this issue. Staff is aware, and a public meeting may be scheduled in the future.”
Boaters now can go up to 25 mph in the 125-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep channel reserved for watercraft. A no-wake zone would limit boaters to about 5 mph, increasing the one-mile trip to the north end of Coral Cove Park from two minutes to about 20 minutes.
Saying fast-moving boaters are endangering swimmers and paddle boarders, the Jupiter town council unanimously voted May 16 to support a plan to extend a no-wake zone north from Cato’s Bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway.
“Large boaters are creating irresponsible wakes. It’s dangerous for kids, paddle boarders and swimmers,” Jupiter Mayor Todd Wodraska said.
Opponents say more law enforcement to prevent speeding boats — not a no-wake zone — is a better response.
“It’s not the boaters traveling the 25-mile-per hour speed limit causing safety problems. More local agencies enforcing the speed limit is necessary,” said Chuck Collins, executive director of the 450-member Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.
The Florida Inland Navigation District opposes the no-wake zone on the one-mile stretch, said FIND Finance Director Glen Scrambler.
Especially on weekends, the free parking spaces on A1A north of Cato’s bridge — named after a popular bridgetender — are packed with beachgoers.
They swim, fish, snorkel, kayak and paddle board on the sides of the Intracoastal Waterway. The boaters travel in the channel in the middle.
Extending the no-wake zone would prevent further damage to sea grass and protect the lagoon just north of Cato’s Bridge, Rob Hofmann, an instructor at Jupiter Outdoor Center that rents kayaks, told The Palm Beach Post.
Boaters powering north often gun their engines when they pass under Cato’s Bridge, eager to speed up after puttering at no-wake since Indiantown Road. That’s dangerous for divers and the boats create waves that erode the shore, Hofmann said.
Lake Worth resident Kristin Dunn, sitting on the beach with her 3-year-old daughter Sara on a recent afternoon, said she sees both sides. She’s a boater and a paddle boarder.
“The boaters should just slow down anyway. When they go fast, they miss all this beautiful scenery,” Dunn said, nodding to the blue-green water, spindly-fingered mangroves, bright blue sky and swooping birds around her.