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The middle Suwannee and lower Santa Fe rivers will approach flood stage Sunday, March 3, possibly activating two flood zones along the rivers, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The FWC has been working with Suwannee River Water Management District personnel, who expect the Santa Fe to reach 17 feet above mean sea level at the Three Rivers gauge, where flood stage is 19 feet. The Suwannee River is expected to reach 47 feet above mean sea level at the Ellaville gauge, where flood stage is 54 feet.
This would activate boating restrictions on Zone 5 on the Santa Fe, a 32-mile zone that runs from River Rise in O’Leno State Park west to the confluence of the Suwannee River, and Zone 1, a 39-mile segment that runs from the U.S. 90 Bridge at Ellaville south to the State Road 51 Bridge at Luraville.
“The Suwannee River may reach that level on Saturday and the Santa Fe on Sunday. We want to give boaters a heads-up,” said Capt. Martin Redmond, area supervisor at the FWC’s Lake City office.
An idle-speed, no-wake zone means a vessel must proceed at a speed no greater than that required to maintain steerageway and headway. The FWC doesn’t require any vessel to proceed so slowly that the operator can’t control it or anything it may be towing.
If the FWC activates a speed zone, officers will patrol the area of the river to ensure the idle-speed, no-wake zone is enforced, Redmond said.
“Water levels on the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers can fluctuate rapidly, especially with the rain we’ve been getting lately. These fluctuations can create navigational hazards for unsuspecting boaters, such as floating debris, submerged rocks and stumps and new shoaling conditions. We want everyone to be safe,” Redmond said.
Once activated, the idle-speed, no-wake zones would stay in effect until the water level recedes below 17 feet at Three Rivers and 47 feet at Ellaville.
The other three zones are:
• Zone 2, from the S.R. 51 Bridge at Luraville to Little River Spring. This 18-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 26 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge, where flood stage is 29 feet.
• Zone 3, from Little River Spring to the County Road 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff. This 23-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 24 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge.
• Zone 4, from the C.R. 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff to one mile below the Fowler Bluff Boat Ramp. This 51-mile segment will become an idle-speed, no wake-zone when the Suwannee River reaches 9 feet or more above mean sea level at the Wilcox gauge, where flood stage is 11 feet.
To obtain real-time river level information, visit www.mysuwanneeriver.com.