FWC holds public meeting to discuss the future of anchoring regulations in Florida
In response to increasing concerns between local governments and boaters related to anchoring in state waters within local jurisdictions, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducted a public meeting in Tallahassee on July 21-22, 2014, to discuss anchoring issues and potential ways forward to resolve the conflicts.
Attended by interested persons representing the boating industry, resident and visiting boaters and local and state governments, the two-day meeting focused on complex issues.
“Protecting the rights of people to use the waters kept in public trust by the state is very important,” said Lt. Colonel Jack Daugherty. “We all want to keep Florida a boater-friendly state and maintain that great part of the Florida lifestyle and economy. On the other hand, local governments have the duty to respond to the needs of their citizens. We are committed to a robust dialogue and to seeking balance between boating interests and local governments in an effort to identify points of consensus and to help resolve some of these issues.”
This year, Florida’s Legislature extended the Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program, which was authorized in 2009 to look for solutions to these problems, for three additional years in order to allow for more time to test various anchoring strategies and to engage stakeholders in exploring possible legislative solutions. During the public meeting, a framework for potential future anchoring legislation was discussed along with several draft regulatory provisions based on components of the pilot program, each aimed at solving or minimizing specific anchoring challenges.
FWC staff will draft language based on comments from this meeting, distribute that language to interested parties and hold at least two additional public meetings to further refine a possible legislative proposal. Meeting notices and reference documents will be posted by mid-August on FWC’s Anchoring and Mooring web page, found at http://myfwc.com/boating/anchoring-mooring
Those promoting anti-anchoring laws often use the argument that it is about eliminating derelict boats, but the reality is very different. For example, many of the laws exempt local boats that are stored–the vast majority of so-called “derelicts.” In some cases the laws have been pushed by local influential home owners who don’t want people anchored near their property, and in other cases they are pushed by marina and mooring field owners who want to force people to pay for using public waterways. The arguments about safety and derelicts are a smokescreen. Note that boats have broken loose from so-called safe moorings in places like St. Augustine, and yet users must sign an agreement that absolves the city of all liability.
I’m still not buying the party line from the real estate people that this is about derelict boats. The problem is that waterfront property owners pay a lot for that property, and believe with all their little black hearts, that those high prices mean they should control everything they see from that high priced property. The bigger problem is that people who can afford to buy high priced property, can also afford to buy high priced politicians, through high priced campaign contributions. Another problem is that it doesn’t matter how many times they get these laws or regulations brought up unsuccessfully, or lose, they can get as many bites at the apple as they can afford. And, for a lot of these people, that is a lot of bites.
In a way we’re lucky that they didn’t just decide that they wanted boats banned, because the same legislators that are carrying the water for them on anchoring restrictions, would be more than available to do it for banning boats, too.