HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Improving safety on the Intracoastal Waterway has become a high priority for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, state government leaders and local boat owners.
Many of the issues were addressed at a meeting on Tuesday during which boat owners said speeding, ignoring wake zones and not knowing water-safety rules are just some of the things that are contributing to unsafe conditions on the water.
“It has just unbelievably grown and the waterway hasn’t so you got a limited amount of waterway and twice as many boats so it’s getting hazardous really,” boat owner Jeff Joyner said.
With there being fewer people on water this time of year, one state government officials said that does not mean the problem has gone away.
“Our waterway is full of recreational boaters, and most of them are first-time boat owners and it’s causing a real safety issue,” state Rep. William Bailey of Horry County said.
Bailey held a community meeting on the topic months ago that drew a large crowd. He vowed to take the concerns raised during that meeting to Columbia and develop a plan that’s now in motion.
“Part of the plan is going to be resources,” he said. “I mean, we heard it time and time again. We just need to enforce what we have and that can’t be done when you’re running with nine people in Horry County, the largest county east of the Mississippi.”
Bailey said the addition of more DNR officers will be addressed, and a DNR representative said the agency plans to hire more officers during the next year.
Officials are also working to adjust no-wake zones in the Little River area, Bailey said. They will be monitored and DNR officials will create a safety-education course for boaters.
“We’ve made some good improvements that we think are going to make a difference, and as we go through next season we’ll see things that need to be tweaked,” Bailey said.