Wetlands vs. boats

Newman/Rabson 71552.541 at CompuServe.COM
Wed Feb 10 19:58:43 EST 1993

** Mr. Kristofferson has kindly posted the following inquiry for
me in PLANT-BIOLOGY, and suggested that I might also post it here
in BIOFORUM. I am not, however, a subscriber (yet), so if you have
any information or suggestions, please contact me directly at the
address below. Thanks. **
I serve on the Wetlands Board of Stafford County, VA. Our Board is the local
permitting authority for activities in the county's tidal wetlands; we are
concerned mostly with mixed-vegetation fringe marshes (as well as
nonvegetated sand/mud flats) on freshwater tidal creeks.
The Board is often presented with applications for activities
(marinas, launching ramps) that we can expect to increase boat
traffic in a given area. We are searching for information that
might help us to answer the following question:
How can one determine, even approximately, the carrying capacity
(in recreational boats) of a given body of water? To put it another
way, How much boat traffic can a given body of water support before
it begis to suffer damage to wetlands and marine systems?
We know in a general way what consequences to expect. I don't mean
catastrophic events like fuel or sewage spills, although they are
certainly a concern. I mean more insidious effects like increased
wake battering of shorelines and vegetation, or the effects of
sediment resuspension on the marine environment.
We know that beyond a certain point we will start to get damage,
but we have little idea of how close to that point we are. We have
found very few studies that even attempt to deal with the question
- no wonder, really, since there is an immense number of variables:
stream width, bank geometry, soil and sediment types, vegetation
types, natural turbidity, spawning seasons, boating habits, hull
shapes, etc., etc.
Even with the few studies we have found that do relate to areas
similar to ours, it is hard to etrapolate because fine points of
the local situation can make huge differences. And we have found
no discussion at all of some very basic questions - specific
plants' susceptibility to wake damage, for instance.
So it may be a foolish question, or perhaps I should say a futile
one. Nevertheless, if you have any thoughts about how to get a grip
on it, or where to get more information on any aspect of it, I
would like to hear from you.
If you have information or advice to offer, I would be very
grateful if you would contact me directly:
George L. Newman
P.O. Box 167
Hartwood, VA 22471
Voice/FAX:     703-752-5135
CompuServe:    71552,541
(Internet:     71552.541 at compuserve.com)

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