City concerned about safety on Blackwater River, may consider plan to slow boats for special events

Published on November 07, 2013 with No Comments

The City of Milton is looking at ways to improve safety on Blackwater River when special events draw large numbers of boaters.

“It’s a safety issue,” City Manager Brian Watkins said. “We want to make the events more customer-friendly and ensure that everyone feels safe when the river is crowded.”

The city is asking for jurisdiction over the river inside the city limits. It must get the approval of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which controls the river. It also must get approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.

If those three agencies approve the plan, the City Council could establish jurisdiction and set rules to make boats travel slowly through some areas during special events that attract many people to the waterfront.

“We will use it only for special events that draw large crowds, and that’s only a few times a year,” Watkins said.

The current speed restrictions at the City Marina and Carpenter’s Park would remain as they always have and the proposal would consider restricting boats to slow speeds would apply only to areas of the river near the Riverwalk, Russell Haber Landing, and the railroad trestle, and only during special events.

To enforce the rule, organizations holding special events would have to pay for law enforcement personnel to patrol the river while the events were taking place.

“We’re not looking at stopping any fisherman heading out to fish at 6 a.m.,” Watkins said.

Watkins expects the three agencies to decide this winter if the City Council can establish jurisdiction. Then the City Council would seek comments from the public before passing or rejecting the proposal.

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