By BRANDON MESSICK
The Bridgewater Channel is Lake Havasu’s scenic slow lane, protected by a no-wake zone nearly two miles long – but local officials would like to make it a little longer. According to Lake Havasu Marine Association Chairman Jim Salscheider, efforts could begin later this year to extend the channel’s no-wake zone north by about 600 feet into Lake Havasu. Boaters traveling the channel will have to wait a little longer before revving their engines as a result, but according to Salscheider, it will lead to less damage to the channel’s coastline and greater safety for Havasu residents and visitors. “We want to move the (no-wake zone) buoys about 600 feet from the northern mouth of the channel,” Salscheider said Thursday. “It will create a new safety zone of about 1,000 feet for kayakers and paddleboats … some of the locals won’t like it, but a lot of silt has entered the channel from churning wakes. Moving the buoys will help boating safety and the future of the channel.” According to Salscheider, wakes at the channel’s northern mouth have caused erosion of the channel’s banks, as well as sandy beaches surrounding the Island’s Crazy Horse Campground. As a result of such erosion, Salscheider says, the floor of the channel is rising – evidenced by a study last year by Lake Havasu City water officials. Extending the channel’s no-wake zone could prevent such erosion from taking place, and plans are already in place to dredge sediment buildup from the channel’s floor. A portion of the northern mouth of Bridgewater Channel is controlled by Arizona State Parks, which is tasked with maintaining the area’s buoys. According to Lake Havasu State Park Manager Dan Roddy, the erosion is evident. “You can look at where our white sand has washed out, and ended up in the channel,”
Roddy said. “In our case it’s as much to do with storm runoff as with traffic on the channel, and we’re taking measures to prevent erosion from occurring.” According to Roddy, State Parks officials have replaced some of the areas of shoreline, where sand has washed away, with river rock. Officials have also begun placing landscaping features to curb erosion, with healthier plant life able to hold the sand in place with a better root structure, Roddy aid. Salscheider has contacted the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department, Lake Havasu City officials and the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, and he says the idea has received almost universal support.
“Those buoys haven’t been moved in more than 20 years,” Salscheider said. “Everyone has been saying for years that we need to fix this, but people thought it was impossible. It’s not.” The Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, whose Tecopa ferry is considered by many Havasu residents to be a primary culprit in wake-erosion, could soon follow a more environmentally- friendly course with the completion of the reservation’s new casino, which is slated for next month. The buoys’ new position would allow the ferry to avoid creating wakes near sensitive beach area such as Crazy Horse Campground. According to Salscheider, tribal leaders support the Marine Association’s plan to extend the channel’s no-wake zone. According to Mohave County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kyler Cox, however, the Tecopa is only one of many offenders on a monthly basis. “Excessive wake violations are prevalent on our waters,” Cox said Thursday. “Our deputies make many contacts each day for these violations. We remind the public that the no-wake zones are in place for the safety of all. If there are wakes in these areas, damage can be caused to docked and beached boats, anchored boats, and can also cause undue harm to non-motorized crafts that frequent these areas.” According to Cox, the area of Bridgewater Channel often hosts high rates of traffic and congestion. The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office routinely stations at least one patrol vessel at the channel’s northern end, with a focus on wake violations.