Boaters call for "no wake" near Biloxi Schooner Pier

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  A "no wake" zone is badly needed around the Biloxi Schooner Pier. That's the message several boaters took to the Harrison County supervisors on Monday. They say strong wakes caused by passing boats are damaging vessels docked at the Schooner Pier.

Harrison County supervisors passed a resolution two years ago supporting the proposed "no wake" zone around the schooner pier. But the Department of Marine Resources, which has the final say, rejected the idea.

Now the boaters calling for the "no wake" zone are renewing their request.

The Biloxi Schooner Pier has 22 boat slips, but only three are taken right now. Some boat owners blame the wake problem.

"The Schooner Pier is basically empty right now. And most of the reasons the people have left is they're getting killed. The boats are getting tore up. My boat's getting tore up. I have a $130,000 house boat out there," said Rickey Hemba.

Since the oil spill, there's been even more boat traffic.

"There is a no wake zone in front of the Small Craft Harbor. There's a no wake zone in front of Point Cadet Marina. What is the problem having a no wake zone right in front of the Schooner Pier? You have the Biloxi Yacht Club right next to us. Their boats are getting torn up," said Biloxi Seafood Industry Museum Director Robin Krohn-David.

Rusty David has a house boat docked on the west side of the Schooner Pier.

"They sight see through there like this. And throw a four foot wake. And the schooners are all wooden. They're traditional built. No metal cleats. No reinforcements. Wood chocks they tie them up with. And over a period of time, they're getting beat up," David told supervisors.

Supervisors listened, but they don't have the final say.

"So, it seems to me that the people you all need to be talking to right now is the DMR. I don't know what else we can do," said Supervisor William Martin.

Windy Swetman represents the area where the pier is located.

"If I received a call from Rusty or Robin, which I haven't, in regards to this, we would have sat down and talked about it and I would have went with them back over to DMR to talk about this issue and exercise a little diplomacy. That hasn't occurred," said Supervisor Swetman.

"You go any place where there is a series of marinas in a very short space or distance and there's a no wake zone. That's common sense and good judgement," said boat owner Richard Breslin.

Two years ago, the request before DMR was for a "no wake" zone from Point Cadet to the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

The DMR staff said it was "too large an area" and "too restrictive." Plus, they had received no complaints about boat wakes causing any damage.

DMR Director Dr. Bill Walker told WLOX News he's willing to meet with Supervisor Swetman and some of the boaters to discuss the best solution to the problem. He said there are alternatives to a "no wake" zone, including the construction of a breakwater in the area.

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