Boating safety upgrades slated for Cinco Bayou

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TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

SHALIMAR – The Okaloosa County Commission on Tuesday agreed to direct its staff to repair lights under the Cinco Bayou Bridge and replace missing “no wake zone” signs nearby.

Commissioners favored completing those maintenance tasks rather than expanding the existing no wake zone or creating a new slow-speed area for boaters.

The existing no wake zone extends out from the shoreline on the south end of the bridge to protect the area around a boat launch and homes

Based on concerns from residents who live near the bridge, the staff began looking last year at possible changes to the nearby water.

“Staff is not making a recommendation of what to do” but is just presenting options, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey told the commission Tuesday.

After discussions and visits to the bridge area with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, staff presented several options to commissioners:

• Extend the existing no wake zone out to 500 feet, which would put it near the center of the bridge. That extension would require amending a county ordinance that established the existing zone in 1996. The existing zone was requested by the Town of Cinco Bayou, Autrey said.

• Establish a slow speed/minimum wake zone that would extend out 300 feet on either side of the bridge and overlap the existing no wake zone.

• Perform maintenance work without any wake zone changes or additions.

The commission unanimously agreed to move forward with the last option. Funding for the light repairs and sign replacements will come from the county’s Boating Improvement Fund.

Seven people who live next to or near the bayou spoke at the meeting. Most of them seemed to agree with the county fixing the lights beneath the bridge and replacing missing signs rather than creating new boating regulations.

The No. 1 priority for everyone involved is safe boating, resident Mike Brown said.

Another resident said he is worried that a small percentage of people want to control local waterways. And another resident said she hopes the county clears up a rumor that the whole bayou is a slow-speed zone.

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