Florida Anchoring Rights Struggle Enters Next Phase
Claiborne S. Young
Last Friday, February 25, 2011, stories began to appear in the Florida press heralding the next, evolutionary step in the Florida Anchoring Rights struggle. This development was not at all unexpected, but it does presage a call to arms for the cruising community. We MUST ALL heed this call if the Floridian anchoring rights which have been earned after so much blood, sweat and tears over the last decade are to be maintained.
Let me not keep you in suspense. The story that broke details the naming of the first three “Pilot Mooring Field Program” sites in the state of Florida. They are Sarasota, St. Petersburg and all of Monroe County, which encompasses the Florida Keys. You can read the full story at:
Over the weekend, messages appeared on several other nautical mailing lists to the effect that this was a “new” development. NOT so! In fact, the naming of the pilot sites has been expected since 2009.
To explain that statement, we must review the momentous 2009 legislative Anchoring Rights struggle. To detail that entire process would fill a small book, so please allow me to give you an executive summary.
There were a host of pro-cruising forces working hard for the best anchoring law that could be obtained in 2009. Among these were Seven Seas Cruising Association, Boat/US, the Florida Marina Industries Association, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net and a grassroots organization, since disbanded, which came into being as a direct consequence of the Florida anchoring situation.
This coalition of pro-cruiser forces was squared off against the Florida League of Counties and Municipalities. As you might imagine, this group wanted to retain as much local control over anchoring as possible.
What emerged from this battle was a serious concession from the League of Counties and Municipalities that broadened the definition of what it is for a vessel to be “used for navigation.” This was the loop hole that many municipalities had used in the past, as Florida state law, even before 2009, banned local anchorage regulations for vessels “used for navigation.”
Now, anyone who has ever been involved in the good, old US of A legislative process knows that when you get a major concession from the “other side,” you’ve got to give something. And, what the pro-cruiser forces gave was a plan for a series of pilot mooring fields. The law further charged the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), in consultation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (FDEP), with naming the site of the pilot programs, and stated that these selections must be made by July of 2011.
So, to anyone who has been following the Florida Anchoring Right struggle, it’s certainly no surprise, much less a shock, that the FWC has complied with the 2009 law and made its first three selections. Two more sites will be named along the Eastern Florida coastline sometime between now and this coming July.
Well, if all this was expected, as indeed it was, by now you may be wondering, so what’s the big deal Claiborne. Well, I’ll tell you what the “big deal” may be, and to put it succinctly, that “big deal” is “buffer zones.”
During all the debate which raged around the 2009 Florida Anchoring Law, and, in particular, the establishment of the pilot mooring field program, it came be to be generally acknowledged that, to be effective, there was going to have to be some sort of NO-ANCHORING ALLOWED buffer zones established around the pilot mooring fields.
The argument ran that, without such buffer zones, cruisers could simply drop the hook 50 feet outside the mooring field, pay nothing, and dinghy ashore to take advantage of all the services established to support the mooring field, such as showers, dinghy docks, etc.
Now, let me be very quick to point out, there were strong and well reasoned voices in the cruising community which did NOT accept this premise. At the height of the debate, we published an extremely thoughtful article, authored by SSECN contributor, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, in which she strongly asserted the notion that the pilot mooring fields in general, and any sort of no-anchor buffer zones in particular, were bad ideas (See http://www.CruisersNet.net/stay-vigilant). A fear that the no-anchor buffer zones might be abused was front and center in Captain Charmain’s arguments.
And, indeed, I worried about this same thing. During a particular FWC meeting, one Florida municipality made what I thought was an outlandish statement that for a mooring field to be successful along their waterfront, waters as far as twenty miles away would need to be included in a no-anchor buffer zone.
However, many of the pro-cruiser forces, including this writer, decided, perhaps uncomfortably so, that we were just going to have to live with the fear of bloated, no-anchor buffer zones if we were going to get the rest of the pro-boating portions of the 2009 bill enacted into law.
And, that’s exactly what happened, and here we are in 2011, with the FWC carrying out its legislatively mandated duty of naming the mooring field pilot program sites. WHAT WE MUST ALL DO NOW IS EXERT OUR MAXIMUM EFFORTS TO MAKE SURE THE NO-ANCHOR BUFFER ZONES ESTABLISHED AROUND THESE PILOT SITES ARE A REASONABLE SIZE, AND THAT THESE BUFFER ZONES ARE NOT USED SIMPLY AS A MEANS TO INSURE THAT NO BOAT ANCHORS ANYWHERE NEAR THE COMMUNITY IN QUESTION!!!!
Fortunately, the 2009 law provides the perfect forum for us to act. This statute specifies that the FWC “MUST” hold a series of public forums BEFORE the rules surrounding any of the mooring fields are decided on and approved! THE CRUISING COMMUNITY MUST BE WELL REPRESENTED AT ALL THESE PUBLIC FORUMS!!!! We must be heard, and we must LISTEN for any attempt to establish unreasonable buffer zones!
The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net will do its part. As soon as the dates and sites for the various public forums are announced, we will post these stats on our web site, and send out special e-mail “Alerts.” Those of you who are members of other nautical mailing lists, Seven Seas Cruising Association, MTOA, or the AGLCA, PLEASE repost these blasts on your lists. WE NEED TO GET AS MANY CRUISERS TO THESE MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE. That point cannot be overstressed.
Finally, let me give some advice to all cruisers, and particularly those who eventually speak at the mooring field pilot program public forums. Make no mistake about it, Florida does have a REAL problem with abandoned vessels and, what I term, “live aboard hulks.” These latter “vessels” are little more than hulls that will never move again, and on which some people “live.”
The question is this, though! Is the best way to solve this problem by prohibiting everyone from anchoring, or only anchoring for a short period of time. Any of you who have read my earlier editorials on this subject know my answer is a resounding, “NO!” Rather, WE SHOULD EMPLOY MARINE SALVAGE LAWS AND MSD REGULATIONS TO CLEAN UP DERELICTS AND LIVE-ABOARD HULKS! For more on these suggestions, please see my earlier Anchoring Rights editorial at:
OK, now you know about the latest when it comes to the issue of Florida Anchoring. PLEASE let us know what you think by e-mailing me at CruisingWriter@CruisersNet.net. And, most importantly, see you at the pilot field public forums!!!!
As of today, March 2, 2011, there has already been a firestorm of responses from the cruising community concerning our editorial linked above. If you have ALREADY read the editorial, click the link below to check out the many messages we have received from fellow cruisers on this subject. If you have NOT read our editorial, please do that FIRST, and then follow the link at the end of that article to check out the response:
And, here is the official News Release from the FWC which initiated this whole discussion:
News Release from the FWC.
Contact: Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585
At its meeting Wednesday in Apalachicola, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) selected three sites for an anchoring and mooring pilot program. Two more will be chosen in April.
Following staff recommendations, Commissioners voted to select the cities of Sarasota and St. Petersburg and Monroe County as sites for the mooring field pilot program. A mooring field is a controlled area where boaters tie their vessels to a floating buoy, which is secured to the bottom of the waterway.
Under Florida statute, the FWC, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), must establish a pilot program regulating anchoring and mooring outside of marked public mooring fields.
“We hope the project promotes safe public access to Florida’s waters, protects the marine environment and deters improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways section.
By July 1, 2011, the FWC must have selected all locations for the pilot project. The requirements include two on the east coast of Florida, two on the west coast and one in Monroe County, so the remaining selections must be on the east coast.
The FWC staff began work on the program in October 2009, when it sent out letters of solicitation. Fourteen counties and municipalities responded with letters of intent to participate.
“Our staff worked with DEP to gather data to determine appropriate sites for the project,” Daugherty said.
They analyzed geographic characteristics of the area, services provided at the mooring field sites, usage fees and the average number of boats inside and outside of the mooring fields.
At its December meeting, the Boating Advisory Council, which makes recommendations to the FWC and the Department of Community Affairs regarding issues affecting the boating public, advised FWC staff to move forward with the site recommendations on the west coast and in Monroe County.
Wednesday, staff presented recommendations to the Commission on those recommended sites on the west coast and in Monroe County. Commissioners approved FWC staff-recommended sites and a request for more time to collect and analyze more data regarding anchoring and mooring on the east coast.
FWC staff will present the data to the Boating Advisory Council in March for recommendations, and then return at the April Commission meeting with suggestions for the two remaining east coast pilot sites. The Commission also directed staff to work with the city of Stuart in an attempt to be added as a third pilot program site.
Please visit MyFWC.com/Boating or call the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section at 850-488-5600 for more information.