Boaters on the Magothy and South rivers will have to slow down on some tributaries starting in two weeks.
New 6-knot speed limits take effect June 8 as part of much-debated river management plans that have pitted waterfront residents against water skiers.
The state Department of Natural Resources yesterday announced the new limits -- some of which will be enforced only on weekends or holidays or during the April 15 to Oct. 15 boating season -- along with minimum wake speed limits in other tributaries.
Restrictions in previously unregulated waters should help prevent boating accidents and protect environmentally sensitive waters with submerged vegetation, said Bruce Gilmore, director of the state Boating Administration.
"South River has had its share of accidents, some attributed to speed, others attributed to ignorance or intoxicated boaters," said Gilmore. He added that fewer accidents have occurred on the Severn River since speed limits were imposed there two years ago.
"We take the view that if you have a vigorous law enforcement component and an education component and a regulatory component, these three components result in safer boating," he said. "That's been the trend in this country."
The plans maintain a water skiing and jumping slalom course on the upper South River, as well as recreational water skiing areas in the main body of the Magothy River, said Jody Roesler, a Boating Administration planner.
However, skiers will lose an area near Gibson Island known as Eagle's Cove during weekends and holidays during boating season.
"The plan is a balance of uses," Roesler said. "We did take into account the existing uses and did try to protect opportunities for people to enjoy those uses."
The state has left intact a controversial proposal to keep the Little Magothy River unregulated, except at the headwaters and mouth. Little Magothy River residents had complained that lack of regulation would open their backyards to heavy boat traffic, rTC while water skiers said they lost prime ski areas and gained nothing in return.
The 6-knot speed limit will be in effect year-round in 23 tributaries of the Magothy; through April 15 and October 15 in the Magothy River entrance channel; and on weekends and state holidays during boating season in Eagle Cove and Magothy Narrows. Boats must travel at the minimum speed necessary for steerage in Cypress Creek headwaters and Upper Magothy River headwaters.
On the South River, boaters will be subject to speed limits year-round on 10 tributaries and in the Route 2 Bridge area; and on all weekends and holidays in Ramsey Lake and Selby Bay. Planners designated Beards Creek, Upper South River, Cherrytree Cove and Flat Creek as minimum wake areas.
During the boating season, a maximum speed limit of 35 knots during the day and 20 knots at night will be in effect on the main channel and unregulated tributaries from west of the Route 2 Bridge to the Upper South River ski area. Boaters will find speed limits on several creeks and the Riva Road Bridge area, either at all times or only on weekends and holidays during boating season.
Jim Peck, the department's assistant secretary, said budget cuts have prevented him from hiring additional natural resources police to enforce the new regulations.
But Gilmore said he doesn't foresee any problems.
"When you establish a speed limit, once the boating public understands the regulations, they adhere to it," he said. "It's almost self-enforcing. You don't need policemen on every tributary."
A panel of citizens will monitor the new regulations and recommend changes to the department, Gilmore said.