Letter to the Editor: Okeechobee County boat speed laws

Posted 11/15/21

No wake zones needed to protect sea walls

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Letter to the Editor: Okeechobee County boat speed laws


I am a concerned citizen who enjoys living on a canal-front lot in Okeechobee. My concerns are based on the changes we have gone through in the last few years regarding new boaters and the lack of education about local laws.

This included myself until recently. We have had a huge influx of new people moving in the last few years. A lot of them are moving into canal-front properties, building seawalls and docks, buying big fast boats and unknowingly breaking unfamiliar laws.

In my last post I discussed the Boater Education requirements for operating boats in our waters. Now, I’d like to address the laws regarding legals speeds into our waterways. Few people know what the laws say, much less understand them. This includes myself, so I will just tell you what they say, not what they mean, and you can make your own interpretations and choices.

Okeechobee County Ord. No. 1027-0007, Chapter 74, states: “Waters of the county/waterways of the county. May be used interchangeably and mean any navigable waters of the United States within the territorial limits of Okeechobee County and all inland lakes, rivers, and canals under the jurisdiction of the county.”

Okeechobee County Ord. No. 2017-0007, Chapter 74, also states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate upon the waterways of the county, a vessel at a rate of speed which creates a wake other than that which results from operation of the vessel at an idle speed in an idle speed no wake zone.”

Florida Statute 327.33(1), Reckless or careless operation of vessel,  states: “It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a reckless manner. A person who operates any vessel, or manipulates any water skis, aquaplane or similar device, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner as to endanger, or likely to endanger life or limb, or damage the property of, or injure a person is guilty of reckless operation of a vessel. Reckless operation of a vessel includes, but is not limited to a violation of s. 327.331(6). A person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”

As I stated earlier, I leave the interpretations to the reader (or the lawyers, who should have a field day). Next, I plan to discuss Markers and Enforcement responsibilities.