TREASURE ISLAND — A lively debate over whether to establish a no/minimum wake zone in the area of St. James Bridge, adjacent to and behind the new Fusion Resort boat dock, was sunk by city commissioners.
City Manager Garry Brumback categorized discussion at the Oct. 6 commission meeting as a continuation of a previous request to reduce watercraft speed in Blind Pass. That request was subsequently narrowed down at this meeting to include an area on either side of the St. James Bridge, which stretches across the Treasure Island Causeway, he explained.
The request by owners of the Fusion Resort at 290 107th Ave., along the Treasure Island Causeway on the western end of the St. James Bridge, was for the city to install buoys on either side of the bridge declaring a “slow, no wake zone.” Resort owners told city officials speeding boaters and watercraft users cause wakes that could impact boaters at their 18-slip marina.
Commissioner Tyler Payne proposed placing a “slow, no wake” buoy 100 feet from the south side of the bridge and 300 feet from the north side, in the body of water between Paradise Island and Isle of Palms closest to the Fusion Resort dock.
Payne told commissioners that would impose safety measures for the new docks at the resort.
“If we bring the buoy out closer to where the Fusion docks are, that will help with slowing the boats down, as they are coming by the Fusion docks,” Payne said. “Anything we can do to minimize the wake going through there would be helpful to the safety of their guests, a lot of which may be our residents who are visiting by boat.”
Commissioner Saleene Partridge countered, “I am still not convinced that there is a large problem that warrants putting another obstruction in the water. I’ve talked to many residents around there. My feeling is they (Fusion) put in the dock willingly and they found that now there is a problem.”
Partridge suggested the resort can resolve the situation by not allowing boats to dock at the last slip few slips nearest the bridge. She suggested the unused boat slips could be used for fishing.
“I’m very concerned with putting another obstruction in the water, because I feel that could create an unintended risk with boaters,” Partridge said. “They can operate their hotel perfectly fine and well without using that dock for boating. (The dock is) already there, so I understand that, but I still do not find that putting an obstruction in the water is a solution I can support.”
Payne said he considers this issue different from the Blind Pass no-wake zone request, which he did not support. He noted in that case someone knowingly purchased a home on a waterway that was not a no-wake zone and then wanted to change it, because it was impacting their personal property.
“They knew full well of that, but with this there is a question of whether or not they really knew, or should have known, whether that there was going to be an issue of people speeding under that bridge,” he explained.
Partridge, however, said she does not see anyone speeding under that bridge, because “the water is normally incredibly high; I don’t think that is where there is an issue. I duck on a jet ski going under (the bridge). I rarely see boats going under the bridge. It’s more of a jet ski issue, which is why I am concerned about putting buoys in the water that weren’t there before.”
Commissioner Deborah Toth said the proposal “puts the buoy way out into the area where people generally go by, and I can see that’s going to become a very much sort of an obstruction.”
Any buoy would have to be placed close to the bridge between 50 to 100 feet, Toth added, not 300 feet into the water.
Payne made a motion for the commission to approve his request for a no/minimum wake zone within 100 feet on the south side and 300 feet on the north side of the St. James Bridge; it died for a lack of a second commissioner in support.
Payne then made a second motion for the commission to consider approving a request to place a buoy within 100 feet on each side of the bridge.
During additional discussion, Partridge said, “I do not believe we should be putting an obstruction in the water. I believe they could self-remedy the problem.”
Payne argued that “it would be nice to do something for one of our business owners … that is really making a big impact on our downtown. These boats provide water access to the downtown area.”
Mayor Larry Lunn said he thinks boater safety is the issue.
“Do we want to say that we don’t want to create a safe atmosphere for the boaters, just because we don’t like the fact that the boat docks were placed there? I think especially on the north side, we need some sort of notification to boaters. I’m afraid we are going to have some serious accident in that location. I don’t want it on my conscience that we failed to provide some notification of the condition.”
However, the mayor said the 300-foot proposal “appears to be too far out.”
The issue died for lack of commission support on Payne’s second motion to place the buoy 100 feet from the bridge.