City studies boat length restrictions

July 2009 News

City officials are taking another look at the ordinance that restricts the length of boats on Lake Tuscaloosa.

The city has length restrictions for three different categories of boats. 
- Sport boats are restricted to 24 feet long and 8.5 feet wide
- Pontoon boats can be up to 38 feet long and 14 feet wide
- Sailboats are restricted to 26 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width

"I want to know the rationale behind having the lengths we have, and if we increase the lengths what would be the impact?" Councilwoman Cynthia Almond said.

Almond raised the issue after being approached by boat owners.

"Several people have contacted me with boats that slightly exceed the length and they've gotten cited," Almond said. "There are several boats that are 2 or 3 inches too long. So their boats are sitting there and they can't use them."

Jimmy Junkin, Water and Sewer Department director, said the

restrictions are meant to limit the wake boats create. Large wakes cause erosion, damage boat docks and disturb other people using the lake.

The difference in the length restrictions between the boat categories is based on the wake they produce. Many of the boats that exceed 24 feet are built with deeper hulls for saltwater. Deep-hulled boats create more wake. The shallow-drafted pontoon boats don't create as much wake.

Large boats are not the only recreation-related issue on Lake Tuscaloosa, Junkin said. The city has received complaints that people using wakeboards are creating excessive wake. He and other officials are considering establishing a wakeboarding zone on the lake.

City Attorney Bob Ennis also noted that on-board toilets are prohibited on boats. If a boat has an on-board toilet, it must be disabled before it can be used on the lake.

There are no facilities for transferring waste from an on-board toilet to the shore on Lake Tuscaloosa, Junkin said. The restriction is in place to keep people from emptying raw sewage into the lake, which serves as the city's drinking water supply.

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