Southport will finally see a no-wake zone in its Intracoastal Waterway.
Approved in July by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the zone will run from marker 1A through 2A. That’s approximately 3,000 feet in the vicinity of Southport Marina and the Yacht Basin.
The area will be marked with no-wake signs some time within the next 30 to 60 days: there are still some permits that need to be approved by CAMA and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Local officials have been pushing for the establishment of a no-wake zone for three-and-a-half years.
Charlie Miller, chief deputy of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, feared that if boaters didn’t slow down, someone could be seriously injured or killed. To date, there have been no life-threatening incidents, but people have been knocked off docks at the marina and structures on the waterfront have suffered damage from the wake.
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016, included language by U.S. Rep. David Rouzer that stated the Army Corps of Engineers must work with communities to establish no-wake zones in federally-maintained water if there are safety concerns due to speeding boats producing large wakes near a marina.
It took more than three years for the bill to be implemented.
“It’s taken a long time,” Rouzer said. “Much longer than it should have taken.”
In June, Rouzer presented an amendment designed to draw the attention of the Army Corps of Engineers that proposed cutting the secretary’s office budget by 40%. When Rouzer spoke about it during the appropriation process, he expressed frustration with the length of the time it had taken to establish the no-wake zone in Southport.
“Everyone back home knows this poses a significant safety concern,” he stated while on the floor. “We just need for some who work in the agency known as the Army Corps of Engineers to understand it just as well. Common sense tells us that at some point there’s going to be a major accident … Doing nothing, as the Corps appears to favor, is not an option.”
Rouzer said he and Miller went in the waterway in 2015 so he could observe the situation firsthand. Rouzer saw heavy boat traffic, and potential for fatalities.
“If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s very easy to fly right on through there and then before you know it have a boat right in front of you,” said Rouzer. “The visibility is not really great at that point.”
A packet requesting the no-wake zone was submitted to the Wilmington District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and then sent to the South Atlantic Division headquarters in Atlanta. From there, it was forwarded to Washington, D.C. where it was eventually approved.
In it were resolutions of support from the county commissioners and City of Southport officials as well as supporting letters from Miller, Rouzer, Southport Marina manager Hank Whitley, Yacht Basin business owner Mark Brisson, and others.