The U.S. Coast Guard will secure 15 Bay area bridges before and during the Republican National Convention. For several hours each day, boats with masts will not be able to pass under seven drawbridges locked in the down position.
Fishermen will have to stay at least 50 yards away from eight other bridges, including the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Howard Frankland and the Gandy bridges over Tampa Bay.
"We recognize and empathize that this is going to require some patience," said Chief Petty Officer Judy Silverstein. "But this is a large event. It's large enough that it warranted an emergency temporary final rule to ensure the safety and security of all, including the delegates."
Many of the conventioneers are staying in Pinellas County and will have to be bused across more than one bridge to get to activities in downtown Tampa. Silverstein said there will be a "heavy marine presence" to enforce the restrictions.
She also said the Coast Guard Auxiliary is "walking the docks," handing out fliers to spread the word.
The Coast Guard will also broadcast the temporary rules by marine radio before and during the RNC.
Boaters FOX 13 News spoke to took the news in stride.
"Not much we can do about it, is there?" one laughed. Another noted the restrictions along the Pinellas Intracoastal Waterway are mostly from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"As far as recreational boaters, the hours are not bad because you have to be mindful of those afternoon thunderstorms that occur," he said.
Douglas Ousley, who lives on a sailboat in St. Pete Beach, was quite understanding: he is a retired Kansas City police motorcycle officer who spent a lot of time escorting dignitaries.
"I understand why there's a need for these kinds of security procedures," he said. "It's important that we keep these areas so they are safe."
But pointing to his own mast, he added "If you have a mast like this here, that's definitely going to affect you because you're not going past that bridge at the times it's not going to open."
He predicted commercial fishermen will have to be particularly mindful to make sure they get on the right side of a bridge in time.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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