Ship Bottom Council Approves No-Wake Driving Ordinance

May 30, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

An ordinance regulating the operation of motor vehicles on roadways during flood conditions drew no public comment prior to the Ship Bottom Borough Council unanimously approving the measure at its recent monthly meeting.

“The purpose is to protect the property of the borough and its citizens by regulating the manner of operation of motor vehicles driven upon the public streets and roadways of the borough during flood conditions,” ordinance 2018-05 reads.

Under the ordinance, motorists are strictly forbidden from operating a motor vehicle within the gateway community in a way that casts or discharges a wave traveling beyond the edge of the street or curb line.

“It should do a lot to stop the cowboying in the flood zone,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said. “There is no reason for motorists to travel at 30 or 35 mph and send waves into someone’s home.

For years, borough residents, particularly those in the hardest-hit, flood-prone areas, have put up with motorists creating waves by traveling too quickly through the flood waters. Even before the rash of March nor’easters left the borough under water for nearly a full week, residents complained about an increase in the number of drivers plowing through flood waters. These residents live in one of the oldest, lowest and most flood-prone areas in the borough: 24th to 28th streets, Long Beach Boulevard and Central Avenue.

Driving fast through flood waters only increases the likelihood of a vehicle sucking water up into the engine. Water in the engine can destroy the car. It’s a situation borough police saw a lot during the March nor’easters, creating just the right conditions for cars to be washed out and drivers needing to be rescued by local police.

“Thank you,” resident Richard Cummins said during the public portion of the meeting, after the ordinance was adopted. In March, he asked the council if they would consider closing the borough to non-Island residents. He said in recent years a large number of thrill-seekers storm the Island during a weather-related event looking for photo opportunities. It’s these people, he said, who tend to drive hastily through the flood waters.

In what could be the first ordinance of its kind, the proposed measure is a take on a state law requiring the speed of every water vessel to be regulated. The law was put into place to ensure no danger or injury to people or property, either directly or by the effect of the wake. There are also several situations where state law dictates all boats reduce their speed to “slow speed/no wake” when passing.

— Gina G. Scala

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