Speed Limit Testimony

November 6, 2002

Testimony of: Willie deCamp, President
Save Barnegat Bay

Before the New Jersey Boat Regulation Commission
Raritan Yacht Club, Perth Amboy, New Jersey

Supporting a Reasonable Speed Limit
On our Inshore Tidal Waters

Save Barnegat Bay is a not-for-profit environmental group dedicated to the well-being of Barnegat Bay. We are supported by contributions from about 1200 families annually.

We strongly support the implementation of an overall speed limit applying to all craft on our inshore tidal waters. We suggest 30 mph as a reasonable speed limit. We believe that this speed limit should be in effect from May 1 to October 31, seven days a week. What is worth protecting on weekends must surely be worth protecting on weekdays as well.

In expressing our opinion, we wish to emphasize our respect for those who may oppose a speed limit or have differing views as to its implementation. Differences in size and design of watercraft, the amount of wake that various boats throw out, and the difficulties of enforcement of regulations on the water make this a complex subject on which all opinions must be heard and valued.

We believe, however, that the establishment of an overall speed limit – which would not preclude the maintenance of existing or future no wake and slow speed zones – is the most practical, or perhaps the least impractical, way to ameliorate four key problems on the water:

(1) Safety of all boaters. All responsible boaters deserve a regulatory regime that promotes a reasonable degree of safety on the water. Such a condition does not now exist on Barnegat Bay. Indeed many boaters presently refrain from going out on the water on weekends on account of the fear of accidents that could be caused by speeding powerboats.

(2) The perception of safety by all boaters. All responsible boaters should have the right to feel reasonably safe on the water. It is a matter of fundamental fairness that an irresponsible few should not be allowed to recreate in a way that prevents the enjoyment and the safety of the many. Fear should not be a part of a sunny afternoon on the water.

(3) Noise. While the ideal way to control noise on the water would be for the Marine Police to responsibly enforce the existing noise laws, the implementation of a reasonable speed limit would go a long way toward reducing the extreme noise pollution that disturbs nesting birds, boaters, and landlocked homeowners miles from the water.

(4) Turbidity. Studies have shown that the turbidity caused by powerboats has an adverse effect on the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation, which is perhaps the most important element in the marine ecosystem of our coastal bays. We believe that limiting speed will have a likely overall effect of reducing this turbidity, thereby benefiting marine habitat.

We arrive at our suggested speed limit of 30 miles per hour by asking the following question: What is the fastest that any responsible boater needs to go in order to recreate or to earn his living? Two answers suggest themselves: First, a recreational fisherman in Beachwood, which is many miles from the ocean, would need to go fast enough to get out the inlet and to the Mud Hole on a Sunday morning. Second, water skiers should be allowed to pursue their sport responsibly. We think 30 miles per hour meets these tests.

We believe that those who feel the need to go more than 30 miles per hour belong on the ocean. We see this as a matter of common respect for others who use our bay and creeks.

We understand that there are differing perspectives on this issue, and we are ready to listen to other points of view. It would be irresponsible, however, not to take vigorous steps to curtail the present chaos. More boating safety education and more licensing – while constructive – will not suffice. Some coast-wide maximum speed limit must be instituted.

Thank you for your attention to our testimony.


Get answers to Frequently Asked Questions on a speed limit on Barnegat Bay.

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