Narrow River No-Wake Zone Causes Flap

According to a story on Rhode Island Central, in mid-August, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services extended the no-wake zone in the Narrow River in Narragansett, Rhode Island, to 1,700 feet, more than 5 times the length of the previous zone, stirring controversy among town officials, boaters and residents along the river. Federal regulations prohibit boats from traveling more than 5 mph in certain parts of the river, so they do not create wakes that can damage the shoreline of the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge at Pettaquamscutt Cove. Violators could face a minimum $50 fine and an additional $25 processing fee, according to a release from Fish & Wildlife Service.

Sat map of area.

The Concerned Boaters of Narrow River (CBNR), a citizens’ group that played a role in last year’s no-wake zone reduction to 300 feet, said that work completed by Fish & Wildlife on a kayak launch 5 years ago led to increased safety issues. “The town never had an ordinance of a no-wake zone [before this],” said Tony Columbo, who heads the group. “Why now, after 5 1/2 years, did this ordinance come to be?”

Marc Lamson of South River Drive in Narragansett said that such a regulation would impede boating on the river. “It’s not an issue of either side of the equation, it’s about the continued restriction of the activities that we all enjoy,” Lamson said.

On Monday, after voting unanimously to oppose the new federal regulations, the town council decided to schedule a work session on the issue. Councilwoman Susan Cicilline-Buonanno, who led the opposition, took issue with Fish & Wildlife’s decision to exclude the town in negotiations prior to implementing them.

In June 2009, the council decided not to renew a 2008 ordinance that stated the no-wake zone northwest of Sprague Bridge was 1,300 feet, so the no-wake zone stood at 300 feet before last week’s shift in regulations. At that time town officials also nixed a sunset clause that allowed all the parties involved to meet at the end of summer and make changes if issues arose.

Charles Vandemoer, manager of the Chafee National Wildlife Refuge, said the regulations were weighed carefully before a decision was made. The regulations were made in hopes of protecting salt marsh wetlands, a vital ecological habitat to wildlife species, including the state’s largest black duck population, Vandemoer said.

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