Since the Waterways Advisory Committee is tasked with looking over Marco Island’s many miles of waterways, it needs to be concerned with human-powered watercraft as well as power and sailboats, said committee chairman Richard Shanahan.
The WAC met Thursday morning in the City Council chambers, and that discussion was part of the mix, as the committee grappled with updating their mission statement, and finalizing the seawall manual that will be published by city government. New member Phares Heindl, who is also an avid sea kayaker, noted that kayaking and paddle boarding have grown tremendously in popularity, and the city needs to keep their needs for access and launch sites in mind. He said the county facility, the Isles of Capri Paddlecraft Park off State Road 952, is underutilized, and the launch facilities at Mar-Good Harbor Park in Goodland are difficult enough to be treacherous for inexperienced boaters.
The group agreed to amend their mission statement, adding a goal to “evaluate and establish access for all vessels, including power, sail and paddle craft.”
“That’s a goal,” said Public Works Director Tim Pinter, staff liaison to the WAC, working to keep the group focused on their function as an advisory committee. “Do you have any objectives, or strategies” to reach it? “We’ll get to it,” he was told.
The WAC also kicked around regulation, or not, of commercial vessels such as barges, and water quality in city waterways.
Committee member Jim Timmerman took the lead on the two issues, beginning with regulating barges operating in the city, typically in the course of seawall installation or repair. He had researched what is done in the Port of Miami, and reported that while city staff had stated they have very limited ability to regulate commercial vessels, Miami can and does.
“Miami requires boats to be registered and to pay for a permit,” said Timmerman. Lina Upham of the city staff, who had reported to both the WAC and the Planning Board on the allowable limits of regulating vessels in the city, said more information is needed on actual accidents and/or sinkings involving barges, as well as more legal information, which is being put together by City Attorney Burt Saunders.
“Do we really have a problem is the question,” said Pinter. “I can’t tell that we do.”
“If you call multiple vessel sinkings not a problem, fine,” said Timmerman, saying he had been asked to look into the matter by “other powers that be.” Committee member Brian Gilmore, a seawall contractor in his day job, said that the contractors are constantly waiting for permits as it is, are constrained by tides on barge movements, and questioned adding “another layer of bureaucracy” to further regulate his industry.
City Councilor Amadeo Petricca, who appointed Timmerman to the WAC, came to the microphone from the audience, to state that he was the one who had asked him to look into the commercial question, as well as water quality. “I want to maintain control of the assets of the City of Marco Island,” he said.
“Let’s take a look, and see what the data says,” said Shanahan.
At the close of the meeting, Petricca rose during the public comment portion to suggest he and Timmerman hold a meeting on water quality issues in city waterways with city staffers Pinter, environmental specialist Nancy Richie, and community affairs director Bryan Milk to move the process forward. “Stirring the pot,” as he put it, Timmerman threw out one more suggestion, that the WAC look at turbine power generation.
“There might be some potential sites by the bridge,” he said. Assured that any plans would include manatee protection, Shanahan agreed, and the discussion was put on the agenda for the committee’s next meeting. And the much-revised seawall owners’ manual should be out soon, with only an email inspection of one more set of final changes by the committee between it and publication.