Meeting Wednesday in Apalachicola, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved, with contingencies, the city of Stuart/Martin County’s proposed ordinance for the anchoring and mooring pilot program coordinated by the FWC.
The ordinance is in response to the Florida statute allowing a specific number of local governments to adopt regulations on anchoring and mooring vessels in their jurisdiction. This pilot program provides an opportunity for the FWC and the Florida Legislature to evaluate the subject more fully.
“The goal of the anchoring and mooring pilot program is to explore potential options for regulating the anchoring or mooring of non-live-aboard vessels outside the boundaries of public mooring fields,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “The FWC’s role is to provide consultation and technical assistance on the issues.”
Local governments for the five communities participating in the pilot program are responsible for soliciting public input and adopting local ordinances within their jurisdictions. These ordinances must be approved by the FWC and will continue to be evaluated by the FWC and the Legislature. FWC staff members have been attending the sites’ public-input meetings to provide information on the pilot program. Two meetings were held in Martin County on the topic.
Rather than writing an ordinance that was countywide, city of Stuart/Martin County participants established four areas in the county in which the ordinance would be effective. They selected one in the Indian River, two in the St. Lucie River, and one in the area referred to as Manatee Pocket in Stuart.
In the St. Lucie and Indian River locations, the ordinance prohibits anchoring and mooring within 300 feet of the mooring field and other maritime infrastructure. In the Manatee Pocket location, the prohibition applies to the whole area except within provided anchoring areas.
“There is a ‘safe harbor’ exception in all areas for vessels anchored temporarily due to severe weather or mechanical issues,” Daugherty said.
For vessels that have been anchored in any of the areas for 10 consecutive days, the ordinance requires vessel operators to document that they can successfully navigate under their own power by visiting designated locations. After that first documentation of operability, they must also demonstrate compliance every six months.
“This will ensure that boats can operate safely and will also deter abandoned or derelict vessels,” Daugherty said. “This protects the marine environment and keeps waterways safe for all to use.”
A final part of the ordinance is a requirement to demonstrate compliance with marine sanitation laws by providing proof that marine sanitation devices have been pumped out within the 10 previous days.
Commissioners discussed the ordinance, asked questions and heard public comment, ultimately approving it with a few contingencies, including reducing the buffer distances in the St. Lucie River areas to 150 feet while still restricting anchoring between the Stuart mooring field and eastern shoreline. Commissioners also required the removal of the Indian River location until the associated mooring field is constructed.
With this approval, the county can adopt the ordinance to make it effective. All ordinances adopted under the pilot program expire on July 1, 2014, unless re-enacted by the Legislature.
The ordinances for St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Monroe County have already been approved.
For more information on the anchoring and mooring pilot program, visit MyFWC.com/Boating or call 850-488-5600.
Image courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation