SC bill would keep passing boats farther from docks

COLUMBIA — Boaters on the Savannah River might have to keep a greater distance from South Carolina docks.


A bill working its way through the South Carolina House would increase from 50 feet to 100 feet the distance these watercraft must be from docks.

“The complaints that I’ve had in North Augusta … are that these wakeboard boats, they’re still away 50 feet, but the wake that that boat creates hits their dock and hits their boat,” said Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta. “It’s tearing up their boats and putting holes in boats, and it’s scratching boats even though they’ve going the 50-foot (distance) away from the dock.”

The change wouldn’t be solely for the Savannah River but would extend to other state waters. That detail has sent the legislation back for more fine-tuning, after it was learned that some of the intracoastal waters weren’t large enough to accommodate the 100-foot distance.

The bill pertains to a personal watercraft, specialty propcraft or any vessel moving faster than an idle speed.

Under the bill, vessels would have to be twice the current legal distance of a moored or an anchored vessel, wharf, dock, bulkhead, pier or swimmer, or within 100 yards of the Atlantic Ocean coast line.

The proposal stemmed from a series of community forums the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources conducted statewide last year on boating safety.

“This was one that was a very high concern,” said Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, who introduced the bill. Hixon and Rep. Kenneth Hodges, D-Green Pond, are the two co-sponsors.

“It’s absolutely about boating safety. Someone on their dock can get knocked out cold if the wake is too big,” Huggins said Wednes­day. “And of course, boating safety, too, because if you get too close and hit one, you’ll have a tragedy.”

Hixon agreed: “From a safety standpoint, it is wonderful. Because who can see a little person out there swimming when you’re at full speed? At least most people don’t swim 100 foot from the dock.”