The Docks and Harbors Board is hoping a new ordinance will lead to boaters slowing down when nearing local harbors.
The Juneau Assembly unanimously approved an amendment to the city's no-wake-zone requirements during its regular meeting Monday night.
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The amendment removes existing speed and wake limits near local harbors and allows the Docks and Harbors Board to set them throughout the city. The Assembly will have the final say on whether to accept any possible changes.
The amended ordinance also increases the fines for violating speed or wake regulations. For a first-time offender the possible fine has been increased from $25 to $50. For second-time offenders the potential fine has been increased from $50 to $100.
Problems have arisen from the new floats installed at Douglas Harbor that do not have a protective breakwater to minimize the effect of wakes from passing boats, Docks and Harbors Board Chairman Budd Simpson said.
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"Right now it's not against the law or rules to go full speed in front of the harbor," Simpson said.
The large wakes can cause damage to vessels, docks and can cause erosion on the shores, board member Dick Knapp said.
"The reason for no-wake zones is to minimize impact," he said.
The amended ordinance allows the Docks and Harbors Board to set up no-wake zones at Douglas Harbor, Harris Boat Harbor, Aurora Boat Harbor and Don Statter Boat Harbor.
"We're definitely going to do something around the mouth of the Douglas Harbor, at least until we put in a breakwater, but the rest remains to be seen," Simpson said.
Increasing the no-wake zone in the main part of the harbor that runs from Mayflower Island to the Douglas Bridge is also a possibility to reduce high-speed boating in Gastineau Channel, he said. Increasing the no-wake zone outside of Statter Harbor in Auke Bay also has been discussed, Simpson said. There is presently a 5-knot speed limit within the breakwater, but large boats sometimes operate at high speed near the breakwater and the wakes that enter the harbor could potentially cause damage, he said.
"Most people are responsible about that sort of thing," Simpson said.
The amended ordinance gives the board some leeway on where to impose possible wake restrictions and what the limits will be. The board has the authority to establish either a size of wake or speed limitations. Knapp said there are different advantages and disadvantages to having speed or wake limitations.
"Different types of hulls create different wakes at different speeds," he said.
Speed limits also are imposed within harbors because of boats operating in close quarters, Knapp said.
"It's almost akin to a 20 miles-an-hour speed limit in a school zone so you don't hit kids," he said.
Setting a wake limit of 6 inches or so is very difficult to determine and enforce so it is more practical to have speed limits enforced in and around harbors, Simpson said.
"It could be 5 knots, 10 knots, 8 knots, I don't know," he said.
The board will work in the coming months to see what harbors should have wake and speed limitations imposed through meetings and public testimony, Simpson said.