Marco Island Waterways Committee returns to its goals to aid boaters and navigation

Members of Marco Island's Waterways Advisory Committee listen as Tim Pinter, public works director, explains progress on the Smokehouse Bay bridge. From left are James Timmerman, Don Dilks, Richard Shanahan, Kris Helland, Gale Vinson and Pinter. Taking notes is Brandi Garwood, public works administrative assistant. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Members of Marco Island's Waterways Advisory Committee listen as Tim Pinter, public works director, explains progress on the Smokehouse Bay bridge. From left are James Timmerman, Don Dilks, Richard Shanahan, Kris Helland, Gale Vinson and Pinter. Taking notes is Brandi Garwood, public works administrative assistant. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

— One city committee is beginning the New Year by revisiting its original mission statement.

On Thursday, the Waterways Advisory Committee tackled a number of objectives looking for clarification and ways to accomplish them. Items included safe boating, canal navigation and signage.

Chairman Don Dilks asked how the committee could develop a direct focus on safe boating programs. Committee members Kris Helland and Gale Vinson pointed to ongoing seminars by Marco Island’s Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary as examples of groups already meeting education needs.

Marco Island Police Lieutenant Pete Beucler was asked to describe situations law enforcement confronts while patrolling local waters. He said he primarily deals with inexperienced day-boaters who do not have boating knowledge and get lost, run aground, fail to observe no-wake zones or operate boats without proper safety equipment.

The committee considered developing two boater initiatives. One would place better information regarding boating requirements on the city’s website. The second would create a brochure to help inexperienced boaters better understand their responsibilities as vessel operators. If developed, committee members hoped to place brochures at city locations, marinas and docks.

To help boaters navigate Marco Island’s labyrinth of canals, the committee discussed identifying names of bridges on the city’s map that cross over waterways. Tim Pinter, public works director and city liaison to the committee, agreed it was a good idea. In addition, he explained that he often receives calls from realtors and visitors asking for bridge heights to determine what boat sizes can safely pass.

Although that information is on the city’s website, the committee felt it also should be placed on the city’s map as a legend. Committee members considered asking the Chamber of Commerce and realtor offices to add the information as well.

The committee was tasked through its goals to create a baseline for desirable canal depths and record actual depths annually. At present, the city does not have that information available.

Within the past five years, a study was completed by the island’s Power Squadron on navigational aids within city limits that included some depths information. The committee will ask the Power Squadron to update its findings. If possible, that information will be included on the city’s website.

Committee member Richard Shanahan asked if progress had been made for lighting on channel markers and signs. Vinson said he consulted manufacturers to determine the cost of adding lights to navigation aids.

A single solar unit would cost $275-$400 and could be set to illuminate as required. Options include strobe lighting, flashing, selected duration flashing and the option for sensors that control lighting times such as dusk to dawn.

In public comment, Steve Pauly of Marco Lutheran Church ask the committee for an update on the Smokehouse Bay bridge. The $8 million project’s design is 60 percent complete, and all permits are in place and approved. Once started, the project will take approximately 18-24 months. Construction is set to begin in 2013, but a date certain will be determined by city council when funding is clear.

The committee will continue discussion of its mission statement at its next meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 15, in City Hall’s 1st floor conference room. Safe boating courses are offered locally by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, (239) 394-5911, and the U.S. Power Squadron, (239) 393-0150.

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