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Emergency Dredging Solves Dangerous Boating Problem in Destin

Posted on June 30, 2016

By Laura Hussey,

An emergency dredging project is wrapping up in Destin, just ahead of a crowded holiday weekend. The trouble spot is the channel at the mouth of the harbor. Captains have to dodge other boats to avoid crashing into each other.

Captain Cliff Atwell sees an obstacle course of boats, waverunners and kayaks as he tries to navigate the biggest boat in the harbor out to the pass. He said, “It’s very hazardous. This boat I’m on weighs 100 tons so it’s not like you can put on the brakes and back up, you have to make that decision long before it happens.”

Two big boats can’t pass each other in the harbor channel right now, one has to wait. What makes it more dangerous are all the small boats and personal watercraft, often operated by visitors who have no idea of the nautical rules of the road. Captain Tony Davis of charter boat Anastasia said, “We’re having to stop and wait for the pontoon boats and the little boats to get by us because they don’t actually know how to drive and we don’t want to hit anybody or hurt anybody.”

Davis said tempers flare up once in a while. Throw in holiday crowds, and nobody really wants to come to work. He said, “It will be a nightmare.”

The Destin city council approved $80,000 for emergency dredging. It preserves access to North America’s largest fishing fleet and all the tourist attractions. And it could save lives. Capt. Atwell said, “So if a smaller boat that doesn’t have an idea about the rules of the road or doesn’t communicate with you by radio, they’re… it’s hazardous, like it’s amazing there’s not more crashes in here.”

A city spokesman says the dredging should be finished well before the weekend. Next, the dredge will move to Joe’s Bayou to clean out the area around the boat ramp.


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