Preparing for Future Growth in Boating on County Waterways

one teamThe Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners approved two important boating and waterways planning documents on April 9th. Both documents were prepared by the University of Florida, Florida Sea Grant College Program to help the County prepare for increasing demand for boating access to its waterways. Here’s a brief look at what’s inside each document.

Planning for the Future of Recreational Boating Access to Charlotte County Waterways: 2010-2050 – This document, completed in October 2012, specifies the type, quantity and location of public access facilities that will be needed in Charlotte County to meet projected demand through the year 2050. In 2012, there were 20,419 vessels registered in Charlotte County; by 2050, the number is expected to increase to about 28,000. Of interest for planning efforts: the share of recreational boats 16 to 26 feet in length, which currently comprises just over 50% of all boats, will experience the largest overall growth among vessel length classes.

Currently, 53% of Charlotte County residents who boat, gain access to the water from a residential dock, while 35% use a boat ramp and 12% a marina (wet or dry slip). When examining who uses boating facilities located in Charlotte County, we find that County residents constitute 53% of those who use a boat ramp and the remaining 47% are non-residents. Likewise, 51% of in-county marina patrons are County residents, while 49% are non-residents. When planning for the future, the projected increase in demand indicates that Charlotte County will need to add 600-1600 marina slips and 15 ramp lanes. The document also includes an analysis of suitable sites for managed mooring fields, for expanding existing marinas and boat ramps, and for developing new boat access facilities. To access the full report visit: http://bit.ly/10A6JUZ.

Charlotte County Regional Waterway Management System – Completed in June 2012, this project provides Charlotte County with a data driven approach to promote safe access and navigation, protect aquatic resources, and streamline channel maintenance permitting. The project included a census of boats and a bathymetry survey of all County canals and waterways. The resulting GIS database stores locations and characteristics for 10,613 boats, 31,673 moorings, and 355 miles of navigable waterways. An analysis of boat drafts and channel depths determined that, at Mean Lower Low Water, 3,015 boats are restricted by water depth and that navigation restrictions occur along 68.9 miles of waterways.

Approval of the Regional Waterway Management System (RWMS) by the Board allows Charlotte County, the West Coast Inland Navigation District, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop a multi-year regional permit for maintenance of public waterways. The first step is to determine which canal/waterway segments within trafficsheds (boat source areas) and secondary channels (serve multiple trafficsheds) to include in the permit. In situations where dredging is selected as an appropriate management option, the prescribed dredge depth and width will depend on a number of factors, including regulatory and historical precedents, potential environmental impacts, draft characteristics of the present boat population, and cost. A central tenet of the RWMS approach is that maintained, signed channels (1) discourage resource depletion by encouraging boaters to stay within the channels and away from environmentally sensitive shoal areas and (2) promote safe navigation.

Florida Sea Grant’s Boating and Waterways Planning Program addresses the diverse boating needs and issues that face Florida and the nation. This innovative and award-winning program blends research and outreach to develop products and solutions that serve boaters, the marine industry, resource managers and policy makers. To learn more visit: www.flseagrant.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *