The West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) is a multi-county special taxing body, covering Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties, encompassing an estimated 1.1 million people. The district plays a pivotal role in the waterway projects that promote safe navigation from the “Open Water” of the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) to the systems of secondary waterways and supports boating, fishing, and beach-oriented projects.
WCIND supports county and local governments in maintaining and enhancing:
• public navigation channels and inlets
• boating access facilities
• waterfront parks
• piers and special structures
WCIND also distributes boating guides and waterway maps- and other resource and information publications- with an emphasis on use and stewardship of our precious marine resources.
Due to reduced federal funding, local sponsors of the U.S. inland navigation systems must now carry more of the cost of maintaining those systems. Yet, with the annual budget of approximately $4 million, WCIND currently assesses only about 20% of its statutorily allowable millage rate. The member counties of the district collaborate closely to benefit from the resources afforded by a regional approach.
WCIND was established by the Florida Legislature in 1947 to complement the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)—sharing the cost of planning, construction, and maintenance of a 152-mile long, 100-foot wide, and nine-foot deep Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GICW) between the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the Anclote River. The waterway was intended to link natural deep-water sections of bays through a series of man-made channels, providing safe passage of commercial goods, and access to commercial fishing grounds.
Upon the waterway’s completion in 1967, WCIND began maintenance activities. District responsibilities were broadened in 1979 to include improving and maintaining public channels connected to the GICW—and any waters that made a significant contribution to waterway traffic or commerce. WCIND was also empowered to assist member counties in navigation projects, waterway research, erosion and accretion studies, and environmental restoration projects.
In 1989, WCIND was authorized to participate in even more waterway-related activities, including the promotion of inlet management, and the posting and maintenance of channel markers and manatee protection speed zone signs. We’ve also initiated programs to encourage boating safety and environmental stewardship through distributing boater and waterway guides and resource maps.
Although originally developed to facilitate commercial shipping to and along the Southwest Florida coast, today, the GICW’s function is a blend of recreational and commercial use. Cruising, sailing, fishing, and eco-exploring activities predominate the present day use of the GICW.
Sustaining marine resources for future generations is a critical component of the Districts’ multi-year comprehensive plan. The district promotes stewardship as a more effective means of reducing the impact of boating then adding more rules and regulations. The programs help educate the public on the ecological aspects of waterways, encourage safe boating, and encouraging environmental understanding on issues. The programs generate interest in natural resources and encourage compliance with existing regulations. The resulting mindset allows more eco-friendly habits to evolve for the users of the resources. This voluntary compliance is the most cost effective means to achieve resource.
WCIND has sponsored products that; promote boating safety and navigation, identify sensitive marine habitat, and broaden the understanding of waterway history and the safeguards needed to maintain a healthy environment in the growing coastal communities.
The District has also sponsored self-regulatory management initiative that include the establishment of a Regional Harbor Board and a Marine Advisory Committee- addressing waterway issues as they occur though mediation.
Important results of this effort include:
• a system that evaluates popular recreational anchorages according to management needs – active or passive
• a model harbor ordinance for the establishment of eco-friendly anchorages
• maps and guides that promote wise use of anchorage and bay resources
The State of Florida recognized WCIND for its role in this successful self-regulatory initiative by presenting us and program partners with the Year 2000 Environmental Sustainability Award.