FAQ’s on a Speed Limit on Barnegat Bay

Frequently Asked Questions about a speed limit on Barnegat Bay. Also, read SBB’s testimony before the Boat Regulation Commission.

Frequently Asked Questions

(Note: The rationale for a speed limit on the Bay is stated in our testimony before the Boat Regulation Commission.)

Q: What is the use of having a speed limit when there is so little enforcement capacity on the water?

A: To refrain from creating a reasonable speed limit on account of the dearth of Marine Police would be to postpone a solution forever. We have to start somewhere, rather than forever debate the chicken-and-egg relationship of regulation and enforcement capacity. Moreover, other entities can also do enforcement.

Q: What other entities can enforce a speed limit?

A: Individual municipalities and the County of Ocean can create enforcement capacity, either on water or measured from land – but first the Boat Regulation Commission or the Legislature would have to give them a speed limit to enforce.

Q: What would a good speed limit be?

A: 30 or 35 mph, which is very fast. That would allow sport fishermen to motor from Beachwood to the inlet at speed; wake-boarder and water-skiers to recreate; and responsible powerboaters to enjoy speed. Only those whose basic enjoyment entails unreasonable speed would be impinged.

Q: Can there be a lower speed limit at night?

A: Yes.

Q: What are the methods by which a speed limit on Barnegat Bay could come into being?

A: There are two: (1) A change in the New Jersey Administrative Code by the New Jersey Boat Regulation Commission; and (2) Enactment of a statute by the Legislature of the State of New Jersey.

Q: Which method is easier?

A: A change by the Boat Regulation Commission is easiest and fastest. That body has the power to promulgate rules with only a public hearing and a comment period of a few months. Legislation, by contrast, requires passage through an Assembly Committee, through the full Assembly, through a State Senate Committee, and through the full State Senate; then any differences between the Assembly and the Senate versions have to be reconciled; then the Governor has to sign the bill.

Q: Would Barnegat Bay be the only waters affected by a speed limit?

A: No. Most proposals to date have included all inshore tidal waters from Raritan Bay to Cape May.

Q: How can a boater know if he is going 30 mph?

A: A simple handheld GPS will do the trick. They can be purchased at any marine store for about $100. All LORAN and many depth sounders also provide speedometer capability. Many boats are currently sold with built in speedometer capability.

Q: With what technology could the police enforce a speed limit?

A: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which oversees enforcement in that state, successfully uses police radar to enforce nautical speed limits.

Q: Isn’t the real problem a lack of boater education?

A: Boater education is very important. But it is not the whole problem. If we link the establishment of a speed limit to the establishment of greater educational and licensing requirements, you may not see a solution to this problem in your lifetime.

Q: Wouldn’t creating a speed limit on inshore tidal waters devastate the marine industry?

A: You must be bad at math. There are tens of thousands of boats along the Jersey shore. If the small percentage of them that operate dangerously are forced to behave or go on the ocean, the marine industry as a whole will likely profit.

Q: Some boats can’t get up on a plane below 30 mph.; below that they put out a monster wake. Won’t a speed limit aggravate the wake problem?

A: Only a few boats can’t plane below 30 mph, which is very fast. Taken overall speeding is a more lethally dangerous problem than wake.

Q: Would the establishment of a bay-wide speed limit prohibit the establishment of lower speed zones in certain places, or the maintenance of slow speed no wake zones?

A: No.

Q: Why not have a speed limit exclusively in the tributaries, such as the Metedeconk River, Toms River, Cedar Creek, and Forked River?

A: All of the problems that excessive speed poses exist throughout the Bay, not just on the tributaries. And Barnegat Bay is shoal in so many places that there is not as much navigable water as some people may believe. Putting a speed limit exclusively on the tributaries would only force speedsters out onto the Bay in higher concentrations.

Q: Why not have a speed limit just on Fridays and weekends?

A: All of the arguments for a speed limit on weekends also apply to weekdays: safety; the right of responsible boaters to feel safe; noise; and environmental impacts. Moreover, in many areas there are more children out on the Bay on weekdays than on weekends.

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