A simple request at a recent Lake Norman Marine Commission meeting turned into a debate over whether there are too many warning buoys on Lake Norman.
The request – made during the Marine Commission’s Oct. 12 meeting in Mooresville – came from the Tweed Place Homeowners Association, which wanted an additional no-wake buoy at the entrance to a cove in the McCrary Creek section of the lake.
That section of the cove already has two no-wake buoys, but residents – angered by damage to docks caused by the wakes of boaters entering and leaving the cove – asked for a third buoy to improve visibility to boaters.
“I think what’s going on on the lake right now is not safe,” said homeowner Wes McLemore. “There’s major choke points, especially down our cove, where we literally see almost every weekend … we’ve seen people out there tubing without life jackets on, and boats coming within 10 feet of them.
“It’s unbelievable what’s going on in our cove. … It’s really not safe. I’m not asking for buoys everywhere; I’m just asking for people to obey the law.”
But the request for the no-wake buoy met surprising opposition from a group of homeowners in the back of the cove, with representatives producing a petition with 180 signatures asking marine commissioners to reject the request.
“We fundamentally think it’s a safe area of the cove,” said Bruce Corcoran, president of the Beachtree Bay Homeowners Association, which is at the back end of the cove. “We went to the (Iredell County) sheriff and asked for information. What stood out to me was the pattern of calls, and where they were coming from. They were almost exclusively in the front of the cove; in the back of the cove where we’re at, I didn’t see any evidence of calls from over 100 homeowners.”
That also brought up the question of whether the no-wake buoys at the mouth of the cove were even licensed by the Marine Commission. According to charter board captain Boots Beasley, there are so many illegal buoys on Lake Norman now that no one pays attention to them.
“You don’t know what’s legal and what’s not,” Beasley said. “But different homeowners associations have put those buoys in without going through the Marine Commission, which is a problem. It’s been a problem on the lake for 40 years.
“What a lot of people putting out these no-wake buoys don’t realize if somebody hits that buoy, somebody gets hurt or somebody gets killed, they are liable for the damage to that boat and the personal injury.”
The Lake Norman Sail and Power Squadron is currently finalizing a survey of the buoys and navigational aids in Lake Norman, and expects to present a copy of that report to the Lake Norman Marine Commission at next month’s meeting.
However, squadron commander Richard Todd told the Marine Commission during the October meeting that roughly 60 percent of the no-wake buoys currently in the lake are illegal.
There was also a question of whether the additional no-wake buoy was necessary, considering the width of the cove. According to Mecklenburg marine commissioner Bill Young, the width between the two most outlying docks is less than 300 feet.
“I know the reasons why people want to put the no-wake buoys in – because law enforcement says they need a marker people can see so they can enforce the law,” Young said.
“But if the entire cove is under 300 feet, you don’t need a buoy to enforce the law – if anyone’s caught creating a wake in that area, it’s automatically enforceable. I just don’t know what extra safety you’re going to achieve by putting another buoy in.”
Marine commissioners eventually approved the additional no-wake buoy by a 3-1 vote – Young was the dissenting vote – but it also brought about an additional motion from Young to review the application process, a motion that passed 4-0.
“The amount of buoys that are out there, and the liability issues, we’re concerned about that,” Marine Commission chairman Mark Lancaster said. “The problem is etiquette and respect for people, period. It’s not the boat; it’s the person driving the boat.
“I think a lot of it’s not intentional … I think they’re just not paying attention. But there’s also a lot of people out there that could care less if they’re breaking the law or not breaking the law. Whether you put that buoy out there or not, they don’t care – they don’t respect you, and they don’t respect the lake.”
In other business before the Lake Norman Marine Commission:
▪ Joe Kluttz from Duke Energy’s lake services division reported that thanks to recent heavy rainfall, the water levels in Lake Norman were at 97.5-97.6 feet, just one- to two-10ths below the lake’s target level of 97.7 feet.
“At the last meeting, we were talking about being 4 1/2 feet below the seasonal target, and the likelihood of getting 12-15 inches of rain between now and spring was less than 7 percent,” Kluttz said.
“If we weren’t in a drought, we would’ve been flooding, which is crazy if you think about it. … Of the 11 reservoirs on the Catawba-Wateree (river chain), all but three are at target elevation now. We’re in a good position now through the end of winter.”
▪ Marine commissioners unanimously gave their approval to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission application from the Peninsula Country Club to replace the wooden seawall along three of the golf course’s fairways and greens with an enhanced boulder wall.
Commissioners also heard a presentation from Duke Energy officials on a future FERC application for work being planned to improve and enhance the spillway bordering the Marshall Steam Station and the lake.
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.