The South Carolina House of Representatives reversed itself this week on a bill that would double the distance boaters must idle their engines while traveling on freshwater lakes or rivers.
The House initially voted 107-1 Tuesday in favor of a bill by State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, that would increase the “no-wake” zone around a dock, pier, or anchored vessel from 50 feet to 100. However, the lone “no” vote State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, was able to convince his colleagues to send the bill back to committee the next day for further review.
Smith told South Carolina Radio Network he had concerns about the law’s impact on travel in the marshes and tidal rivers along the coast. He said it “would take an hour-and-half to get from Garden City (town near Myrtle Beach) to the ocean,” since boaters would never be more than 100 feet from a dock or anchored boat.
Huggins agreed the bill’s sponsors had not realized the impact on coastal freshwater boating. The bill was quietly sent back to committee in a voice vote on Wednesday.
The bill was the result of several Department of Natural Resources hearings with boaters around the state on how to improve lake safety. Huggins said the intention was to make it easier for resource officers to enforce speed limits around areas with possible swimmers. “It’s hard to visually enforce anything,” Huggins said. “This would at least let them do a little better judging from this kind of distance and hopefully know if someone’s getting too close.”
Supporters say they will try to find a solution in committee, although Huggins said any future proposal would likely use a measure besides distance. He was not sure what that would look like, however.