MCSO suggests slowing boaters near Manatee Ave. bridge

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An image shows the Intracoastal Waterway, Anna Maria Island Bridge, two navigational channels and, in the red circle, an area the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office suggests could become a “slow speed” zone. Islander Courtesy Image

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is asking county commissioners to support slowing boat speeds at the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The commission was expected to take up the issue during a meeting Oct. 13 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto. The meeting was to begin at 9 a.m.

MCSO Sgt. Russell Schnering, who heads the marine unit, wrote to county officials in July, raising concerns about boat speeds under the bascule bridge that links Anna Maria and Perico islands on Manatee Avenue.

Schnering suggested creating a “slow speed” zone and said “the area has no speed restrictions currently and a new marina has been built with a channel intersecting the Intracoastal Waterway on the northeast side of the bridge, across from the channel leading to the Kingfish Boat Ramp, northwest of the bridge.”

The marine unit reported observing several near-collisions involving vessels traveling under the bridge at higher speeds.

“It should be noted that most other bridges in the area are designated ‘slow speed’ due to the congested boat traffic,” the sergeant said.

Florida Statute 327.60 prohibits local governments from regulating any vessel upon the ICW.

However, Alan Lai Hipp, environmental program manager for the county parks and natural resources department, said commissioners could authorize staff to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to request a state review of boating safety conditions at the location.

“Any potential establishment of boating safety regulations within the ICW is solely by decision and action of the FWC,” he said.

— Lisa Neff

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