Boaters cautioned about conditions on Suwannee, Santa Fe rivers
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to caution boaters on the dangers of the local rivers in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby.
The deluge of rain from the storm raised the water levels of the rivers rapidly. The level of the Suwannee at White Springs rose nearly 25 feet in 72 hours.
“Dangers include floating debris, submerged navigational hazards and extremely strong currents on these rivers,” said Capt. John Burton, acting regional commander for the FWC's North Central Region.
There is also the potential for public safety issues and the increased possibility of property damage from vessel wakes, the captain explained.
“At this time, we highly recommend people avoid boating on the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers until normal conditions and water levels return,” Burton said. “FWC officers will be patrolling the rivers and assisting local emergency operation centers, as well as local law enforcement and responders to help people dealing with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby in our rural communities.”
The rivers' water levels will continue to rise as the flood waters flow out of low areas. Once river waters reach designated levels, restrictions activate the idle-speed, no-wake zones along both rivers. An idle-speed, no-wake zone means a vessel must proceed at a speed no greater than required to maintain steerage and headway. At no time is any vessel required to proceed so slowly that the operator is unable to control it or anything it may be towing.
There are five zones – four on the Suwannee and one on the Santa Fe. The zones are:
- Zone 1 – from the U.S. 90 Bridge at Ellaville south to the State Road 51 Bridge at Luraville. This 39-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 47 feet or more above mean sea level at the Ellaville gauge, where flood stage is 54 feet.
- Zone 2 – from the S.R. 51 Bridge at Luraville to Little River Spring. This 18-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 26 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge, where flood stage is 29 feet.
- Zone 3 – from Little River Spring to the County Road 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff. This 23-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 24 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge.
- Zone 4 – from the C.R. 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff to one mile below the Fowler Bluff Boat Ramp. This 51-mile segment will be an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 9 feet or more above mean sea level at the Wilcox gauge, where flood stage is 11 feet.
- Zone 5 – from River Rise in O'Leno State Park, west to the confluence of the Suwannee River. This 32-mile segment of the Santa Fe River becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Santa Fe River reaches 17 feet above mean sea level at the Three Rivers gauge, where flood stage is 19 feet.
When these zones are activated, FWC officers ensure the idle-speed, no-wake restrictions are followed, Burton explained.
“Water levels on the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers can fluctuate rapidly. If and when these zones are activated, we will let the public know as quickly as possible. We want everyone to be safe,” Burton said.
To obtain real-time river level information, visit www.mysuwanneeriver.com.