Solving the gas-powered boat mystery at Swift Creek Reservoir

Posted at 8:07 PM, Aug 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-07 20:07:37-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- Thousands of Chesterfield residents rely on the Swift Creek Reservoir for drinking water and great steps are taken to protect the natural resource.

In the past few weeks concerned viewers have contacted CBS 6 about gas-powered boats spotted on the water at Swift Creek.

A decades old ordinance prohibits the operation of any internal combustion engine on the reservoir.

Aaron Natoli and his buddy Huck Blaudelt were bass fishing on the reservoir for most of the day Thursday. They said it is one of their favorite spots because it’s so tranquil, though from time to time gas-powered boats come along and stir things up a bit.

"I've seen some gas motors out here but didn't think much of it,”Natoli said. “I just know there's only supposed to be electric engines here because it's a reservoir.”

The two friends noticed a gas boat Thursday on the reservoir. So did another CBS 6 news viewer who contacted the station, concerned that the boat was violating the county’s ordinance.

We investigated and flagged down the boat. The men onboard said they were conducting official county business, assessing Hydrilla, a water weed, in the lake.

Chesterfield County confirmed that there are a few exceptions to that county ordinance.

"Police and fire obviously, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will ask permission to go on the reservoir with their gas boat from time to time,” said George Hayes, Assistant Director of Utilities. “We also have our water quality analysts taking samples throughout the year.”

“We have in the past had people mistake our boat for a private boat; it’s a white nineteen foot Carolina skiff with the county seals on each side," Hayes said.

He said he’s glad citizens are being extra vigilant on the water and are keeping their eyes peeled for violators, and that he understands their concerns.

“The Swift Creek Reservoir is a water supply,” Hayes said. “That’s the concern with the gas boats—that the petroleum products will be detrimental to the water supply because it is a drinking water source.”

He said if boaters spot someone in a private gas-powered boat, they should err on the side of caution and call the non-emergency police number to report it. That number is 804-748-1251.

Boaters who knowingly and repeatedly violate the ordinance could end up in court and a judge would decide their penalty.