By Dan Moffett
Manalapan officials are exploring ways to slow down Jet Skis and other recreational vessels in the Intracoastal lagoon.
Residents have complained for years about the high wakes caused by watercraft traveling too fast and too close to docks and shorelines, especially during weekends and holidays.
Mayor Keith Waters says the speeding problem goes as far south as the Boynton Inlet and extends to Point Manalapan.
“That is a racetrack on weekends,” Waters said. “I’m going to say upwards to 50 or 60 miles an hour.”
The mayor says the high wakes have damaged some residents’ boats at docks.
The Town Commission asked Police Chief Carmen Mattox in December to consult with state officials and see whether the town can put up more signs or take other enforcement actions to slow down the traffic.
Mattox spoke with officials from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and reported to commissioners during their Jan. 26 meeting that the town’s enforcement area is limited and expanding it would not be easy.
The only navigational channel in the jurisdiction of Manalapan is a short, narrow passage located west of Lands End Road, the chief said.
“There are no idle speed zones or no-wake areas in the jurisdiction of Manalapan,” Mattox reported to the commission, and moreover, “creating a restricted zone is a very difficult process.”
The town would have to show compelling evidence that a public safety hazard exists before the state would consider expanding restricted areas and widening Manalapan’s enforcement reach.
Unless that happens, the town’s options are limited.
“We don’t have any authority over the waterways,” said Town Manager Linda Stumpf. “So there’s nothing we can do.”
However, Mattox said the FWC would be willing to station a marked state vessel in the area that might serve as a visible deterrent to speeders. What the state wants is permission from a property owner to use dock space for a year.
Also, state officials say there is no regulation prohibiting residents from placing no-wake signs on their docks, though authorities cannot enforce them.
Commissioners might have to adjust the town’s ordinances to allow dock signs to be erected.
Waters hopes that part of the solution might be improving the signage and making boaters and Jet Skiers aware that they must minimize their wakes because high speeds can cause damage.
“There’s no signage along the way,” the mayor said. “You can’t blame people for not knowing that.”
The commission is expected to discuss the problem further at its next meeting, Feb. 23.