By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
BRADENTON – Manatee County commissioners last week agreed with Anna Maria officials and swimmers that having a 25 mph channel at Bean Point makes no sense.
"What was approved with the boating safety ordinance was a swash channel, which was put into place to allow boaters the ability to get into the Gulf without going way out around the sandbar," Bill O’Shea, coastal programs manager, explained.
He said the channel moves and currently is located very close to shore where swimmers congregate. Swimmers appealed to city officials, who appealed to county officials to eliminate the channel.
"What we have is a 25 mph zone that goes through a slow speed minimum wake zone," O’Shea said. "I spoke with law enforcement and looked at it. There are other ways boaters can get out into the Gulf. We are recommending that we delete the channel."
"It’s totally a safety issue," Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said. "We started getting e-mails over a year ago about it."
Commissioner Joe McClash said the channel was much further out in the Gulf when it was designated.
"We hope you will accept the staff recommendation,” County Attorney Bill Clague told the board. "This is a tricky spot. We need to make it clear that it is not a public beach maintained by the county for swimming because it does have dangerous conditions for swimmers.
"But we have a channel described on our map that we are not able to mark because it moves. It goes right through an area we know is frequented by swimmers. It’s a recipe for something bad to happen."
The board agreed to amend its boating ordinance to eliminate the channel.
Vice Mayor John Quam and Sheriff’s Deputy John Damato thanked the board on behalf of the city.
The board also recommended expanding the swimming areas at Manatee and Coquina public beaches from 300 to 400 feet out in the Gulf and changing them from slow speed, minimum wake zones to vessel exclusion zones. McClash said the proposed zone at Coquina Beach extended too far south and commissioners agreed to end it at the southernmost jetty.
The fourth change was to expand the manatee protection zone from shore to shore at the Cortez Bridge. Commissioners said they would discuss with Bradenton Beach officials any effects on the city’s mooring field.