Citing a lack of "substantial competent evidence," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rejected Tarpon Springs latest effort to limit boating speeds on a stretch of the Anclote River.
Tarpon Springs didn't not receive permission to restrict speeds on its section of the river between Marker 32 and Marker 17. The FWC did, however, authorize Pasco County to establish an idle speed no wake zone within 500 feet of the boat ramp at its Anclote River Park.
Based on the FWC's decision, Pasco County will reapply on its own for permission to create the no-wake zone, its parks and recreation director, Rick Buckman, said Wednesday.
Tarpon Springs petitioned the FWC for the speed restrictions in conjunction with Pasco County after the 2010 death of a Tarpon man in a two-boat crash on the river near Anclote River Park.
City officials received the news late last month in a report from the state agency and Police Chief Robert Kochen informed commissioners at the Sept. 4 regular public meeting.
The report from the wildlife agency listed four reasons for denial:
Tarpon Springs commissioners and Kochen said they were disappointed with the FWC's decision. There may not be much else the city can do at this time, Kochen said.
"Regardless of this denial we still feel that safety measures along the river from Marker 32 to 17 are necessary," Kochen said. "That's our position, however FWC has to approve this so we're pretty much not going to go anywhere without their approval."
Creating this joint application with Pasco County and petitioning the FWC had been an ongoing effort for nearly two years. Pasco commissioners unsuccessfully attempted to pass speed limit-related resolutions or ordinances along the Anclote River two previous times since 2007.
Billiris, 59, died after the 25-foot recreational boat he was operating collided with another boat near Anclote Park boat ramp during a light rain and crashed into mangroves. The young West Pasco man operating the other craft was not injured.
"This is really a safety issue," Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said. "We have lost Mr. Michael Billiris – a former commissioner and a respectable person in the community. I just can't believe that that was the decision.
"It's pretty tough to swallow. We lost a life there. It can't get any worse than that."
Commissioners asked on multiple occasions what could be done in response, but Kochen did not believe there was much beyond supporting Pasco County's ability to restrict speeds along its stretch of the river.
The FWC report stated that there is competent evidence to support speed limits in that 500-foot boat ramp zone from Marker 17 to the southern terminus of the park's marked swimming area.
"We would support Pasco in whatever they do, but they would have to step back now and do their homework and think it through to see what would be most feasible in that area."
Though nothing appears to be changing soon from markers 32 to 17, Tarpon Springs jurisdiction waters of the river from the Alt. 19 bridge going west to marker 32 are under no wake zone regulation.