The Coast Guard is removing markers in the channel because they can no longer mark the "best water" in the channel.
The Coast Guard will remove navigational markers in New Pass this week because conditions have become too hazardous for boaters to safely pass through, effectively closing the channel.
“Significant shoaling is causing hazardous conditions for boaters, and the Coast Guard can no longer safely mark the ‘best water’ in this channel,” Chief Warrant Officer Darren Pauly, Aids to Navigation Officer for the Coast Guard in St. Petersburg, said in a press release.
The channel was re-established in 2016 after dredging was complete, but storms through the fall caused a build-up of sand.
"We continue our best to mark the best and safest water in New Pass," Pauly wrote to the town. "However, we are running out of water. Removing all aids seems to be our only option at this point until it can be dredged again."
Two channel lights will be converted into “Danger Shoal” markers with quick, white flashing lights, to be visible for three nautical miles.
Nine channel buoys will be removed from the pass between Lido Key and Longboat Key, near the Mote Marine Laboratory, according to the release. Two will be renamed.
Because of the recent unpredictable weather, the Coast Guard is unable to set an exact date for the removal of the markers, but they will be gone by Friday, the agency said.
Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock said the channel has filled in before following dredging, and the nine months of passage was more than was expected following the most recent dredging. The channel dredging was part of a $5 million project begun in August, 2016 to bulk up the beaches on the south end of the island. North end dredging and beach renourishment was also part of that project.
For now, boaters can still use the pass, if they feel confident in navigating without markers. Otherwise, they will have to use Longboat Pass to the north to access the gulf, or make the trip south to transit through Big Pass.
"It remains to be seen if a new channel will open to the south as has happened in the past,'' he said.
John McGuire supplied additional reporting for this story.
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