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OUR WATERWAYS

By Steve Morrell

Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Key West Chosen for Mooring Field Pilot Programs

I

n February, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chose three of the five locations that will be pilot programs for regulating anchoring outside of mooring fields in the state. Currently, local communities cannot enforce any anchoring rules outside of mooring field boundaries. Communities can already enforce liveaboards, so these pilot programs will not affect them. Over the years, as more and more Florida communities began establishing mooring fields in waters they have jurisdiction over, controversy has arisen, because these communities have not been able to legally enforce any local rules (although a few have tried) over anchoring outside those mooring field boundaries. Many cities have found that anchorages in their waters can cause problems, such as boats being stored in these anchorages that are eventually abandoned (derelict vessels), boats that are improperly anchored and break loose during storms—oftentimes damaging other boats and property— and boats that illegally dump human waste into the waters. Some people in these communities also just don’t like boaters living on boats in “their” waters and believe that many of them are worthless vagrants. Boaters, though, have rights that go back hundreds—if not thousands—of years, and these rights are not clearly understood, nevertheless

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April 2011

SOUTHWINDS

even known, by those who live on land. Many who live on land think they can control whatever happens on waters their communities border on, even if those waters were open to navigation and cruising for many years before these communities even came into existence—and under navigation rules that have established federal precedence on all navigable waters. Communities fight among themselves about whether these boaters should be allowed to even be there, while others want to promote boating, both for the local residents and cruisers who travel the waters of Florida, visiting these communities. Many want to welcome the boaters and see them as tourists who spend money and help the economy. Others just don’t like them. The problem is that a local community establishes a mooring field—spending lots of money—in an attempt to control the situation, charging boaters to moor. They can then control the area by enforcing rules for pump-outs, derelict boats, bringing dinghies ashore, etc. Mooring fields can also be a source of local government income for boat storage, liveaboards and visiting cruisers. But boaters can anchor outside of these mooring fields and pay nothing, yet get many of the advantages of the area. But the local communities still face many of the same problems outside the fields that they had before they established them. The FWC wanted to resolve the situation, so in 2009, the FWC began work on a program that would help establish rules that would protect boaters’ rights, local community rights, the environment and reduce the number of derelict boats. Their plan was to choose five Florida locations that would act as pilot programs for establishing anchoring rules. It would then work with the local communities to set up these rules and see how they worked out in achieving their goals. After these programs were in place for a few years, the FWC would report to the governor and Legislature, by Jan. 1, 2014, with what they learned, along with recommendations. They were to choose two locations on the east coast, two on the west coast and one in the Keys by July 1, 2011. They recently chose Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Key West. The two east coast locations will be chosen by the July deadline. The FWC also wanted to establish statewide uniformity, so that visiting cruisers would not have to learn different regulations for each city. The local communities are also hoping that these new rules will help them resolve the derelict boat problem, which exists in almost every waterfront community. All of the pilot program cities will have to first come up with the ordinances to regulate anchoring, which will usually require local public hearings. Then these ordinances will have to be approved by the FWC before they can be enforced. Once full approval is given, the regulations will be enforced until the January 2014 deadline, at which time they will become void, until the state makes a decision and adopts statewide rules. (Sarasota does not yet have a mooring field, but completion is expected by mid-August.) www.southwindsmagazine.com

Southwindsapril2011  

http://www.southwindsmagazine.com/pdfs-issues/southwindsapril2011.pdf

Southwindsapril2011  

http://www.southwindsmagazine.com/pdfs-issues/southwindsapril2011.pdf