BRADENTON BEACH – Due to liability and maintenance concerns, navigational markers will not be installed in the recently dredged channel between the Bridge Street Pier and the Coquina North boat ramp.
Over the years, the channel that runs parallel to Bradenton Beach’s bayside shoreline and around Leffis Key became too shallow for some boats to navigate.
Using a state appropriation and a West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) grant, the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) had the channel dredged in 2021 to an average depth of at least 5 feet. The dredging project did not include the installation of channel markers.
The possibility of installing channel markers was a topic of discussion during the March 2 CRA meeting and the March 3 city commission meeting.
During Wednesday’s meeting, city attorney and CRA liaison Ricinda Perry said some additional seagrass and mangrove plantings would occur as early as this month to complete the project-related seagrass and mangrove mitigation requirements.
CRA member Jake Spooner then asked about channel markers.
“We did this nice thing, but nobody knows where to go,” Spooner said of the dredged channel.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh also expressed concerns about the channel not being marked.
CRA member John Chappie said the channel has always been used by boaters, and even though WCIND designated that area as a navigation channel, to his knowledge the channel has never contained channel markers.
“If we put markers in, we are responsible. We are liable for it. The county doesn’t even do it unless they absolutely have to,” Chappie said.
CRA Chairman Ralph Cole said the installation of channel markers would include a Coast Guard permitting process that if approved would then require the city to maintain the markers and replace any markers that became damaged or went missing.
“If one disappears and someone runs aground because it’s not marked clearly, then you’re liable,” Cole said of the city’s potential responsibilities.
Cole also said the city could be held liable if a boater was injured or a boat was damaged as a result of running into a channel marker.
“It would be nice if we had some way of showing people. We spent all this money to make that happen and now it’s there but nobody knows where it is,” Spooner reiterated.
Chappie said he’s never heard anyone say they couldn’t find the channel and he noted most boaters have depth finders and/or GPS navigation devices on their boats.
Spooner wondered if the GPS information for the channel has been updated to reflect the deeper depths produced by the dredging.
When addressing another concern, Perry and Police Chief John Cosby said they’re not aware of any of the liveaboard boaters mooring their vessels in a manner that encroaches on the navigation channel.
The channel marker discussion resumed during Thursday’s city commission meeting.
After Perry displayed aerial photographs of the channel area, Cosby noted there have not been any markers in that channel in the past and Manatee County has no plans to install them.
Cosby said boaters should be able navigate the channel without markers and should avoid the area if they have any navigational concerns. Chappie noted boaters must assume their own navigational responsibilities when using the channel.
Thursday’s discussion ended with no formal action being taken and the discussion appears to have run its course.