Boating speed limit rumor causing uproar

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 Huntsville Times

An e-mail making the rounds hit my inbox Tuesday afternoon with varying degrees of urgency spouting from it like explosions from the Poseidon when it went belly-up on its New Year's Eve voyage.
The mail included an attached proposal, supposedly from the Alabama Marine Police, to establish a boating speed limit on state waterways. The word is it would be presented to the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board at its first meeting of the year, Saturday in Montgomery, for consideration.
First off, understand this: I didn't receive it in time to confirm the legitimacy. Check on my blog later today, at, for an update. The reason for my immediate hesitation is the date on the proposal is August 2008 and it could be an early draft or a hoodwink.

Anglers are buzzing about the document, however, and how its wording could affect fishermen and fishing tournaments. The proposal would establish a speed limit of 60 mph for any vessel during daytime hours and 40 at night, with certain specificiations. It also would set speed restrictions near any dock, pier, marina, wharf, person in the water, other moored or drifting vessels and within certain distances of the shore.
Shoreline limits on speed aren't crazy. Sensible people don't run 68 mph within 25 yards of a boathouse. The problem, or one big problem, are the dingdongs who do along with the personal watercraft brigade zipping around coves and shorelines each year.
State regulations require age limits and boating safety courses for operators. Kids under age 12 are prohibited from operating a vessel alone, which is good. Teens are required to pass the operator's course. But parents should be the ones teaching their kids about safety and operating within intelligent boundaries near shorelines and other people.
Instead, we may again have to see legislation for what should be common sense. As well, we may see legislation that is unenforceable. The Marine Police already are financially strapped, as is the entire Conservation Department, and attempting to stop speeders on bass boats, personal watercraft and other vessels would be impossible. There simply are not enough on-water officers to do the job unless the department puts its game wardens in boats on the water.
There's a fear among anglers that if stringent boating regulations are approved, the next step would be restrictions about where they could xfish. Currently there are no prohibitions on docks, boathouses or marinas in the water. If a sign on a boat house says "No Fishing" then it has as much authority as chicken squat. The lakes are public waters and the structures are located in public waters.
If the Advisory Board hears a speed limit proposal, hopefully there will be judicious consideration before rendering a recommendation to the Conservation Department. Decisions that affect potentially millions of people each year don't need to be made hastily.
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