The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has the authority to establish by rule, pursuant to chapter 120, restricted areas on the waters of the State for any purpose deemed necessary for the safety of the public, including, but not limited to, vessel speeds and vessel traffic, where such restrictions are deemed necessary based on boating accidents, visibility, hazardous currents or water levels, vessel traffic congestion, or other navigational hazards. Along with this authority comes the responsibility of ensuring that the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is not being unnecessarily burdened by the regulation of both recreational and commercial vessels along this maritime highway. (Laws of Florida 1972, Chapter 55).The FWC is sensitive to those who own property adjacent to the ICW. However, the law only allows for the FWC to regulate for boating safety purposes, not for property protection. With this authority also comes the responsibility to ensure that any regulation of the State waterways is done based solely on those criteria stipulated in section (FAC) 68D-23.105, Florida Administrative Code entitled Criteria for Approval of Regulatory Markers.The Division of Law Enforcement, Boating and Waterways Section, identified the need for a data-driven approach to evaluate requests and applications for the establishment of boating safety speed zones in the ICW. FWC tasked Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan (PBS&J), to oversee the project, who in turn, partnered with the University of Florida Sea Grant College Program (FSG). FSG has developed a prototype Decision Support System (DSS) model to aid FWC in evaluating risk for given safety situations and relevant waterway characteristics.The Geographic Information System-based procedure implemented in this study is intended to assist FWC in the evaluation of inquiries regarding boating safety criteria, boating safety risk and local government applications for vessel traffic and/or public safety management zones. A critical requirement of the procedure is that evaluation and decision-making be defensible and based on measurable criteria.The DSS prototype model was successfully applied on Florida’s waterways and considers the physical conditions and boating characteristics of the Palm Beach County Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for this Study. The approach described in this report utilizes decision criteria stipulated in sec. 68D-23.105, FAC within a geographic information system (GIS) DSS to evaluate boating safety risk. The DSS developed for this study: (1) provides a framework for the integration of spatially referenced risk criteria, (2) facilitates the evaluation of risk criteria relevant to an application for new boating safety zones, (3) enables consideration of the suitability of existing safety zones, and (4) provides spatial information to use as a tool to allocate law enforcement resources. The spatial component of the DSS makes explicit the characteristics of the natural and man-made waterway environment, as well as the distribution of boating use that can influence risk to vessel collision, boating safety and maritime property.
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