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Controversial Martin County (Stuart, Florida) Anchorage Restrictions Approved by the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife (FWC)

On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission approved, with several modifications (see below), the proposed anchorage regulations for Martin County and Stuart, Florida. This is one of the five sites previously approved to take part in the Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program. As any of you familiar with this long, drawn-out process already know, the approved sites are given the right to regulate anchorage in their waters, IF AND ONLY IF THE REGULATIONS ARE APPROVED BY THE FWC!
It is not stretching the truth at all to report that this particular set of regulations is the most controversial of the five sites participating in the pilot program, with the possible exception of St. Augustine’s 30-day anchoring limit, which was ultimately shot down by the FWC. The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net has published several previous articles on the proposed Martin County regulations (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=100456).
Now, with some FORTUNATE modification inserted by the FWC, these regulations have been approved, and will almost certainly go into effect shortly. ALL CRUISERS WHO EVER PLAN ON ANCHORING IN THE STUART, JENSEN BEACH REGION WILL WANT TO READ THE TEXT BELOW, AND LEARN ALL THERE IS TO KNOW! (See, I was a poet, and you did not know it!).
First, let’s hear from our “man on the scene in Stuart, Florida, maritime attorney Captain Ted Guy:

Basically, the City of Stuart is banning anchoring within 150 ft of the existing mooring field and other “marine infrastructure” (docks, seawalls, etc.) throughout the city limits (that provision is probably reasonable) and will require anchored cruisers in the City Limits to demonstrate navigable mobility of their boats and pumpout receipts every ten days.
In the Manatee Pocket, anchoring will only be allowed in the charted small anchoring triangles (see the third map I sent you in October with the draft ordinance). The ordinance does not provide the exemption for live-aboards provided by Florida Statutes, an obvious legal omission.
W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

And, here is the official press release from the FWC:

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.

Thanks to Mr. Guy and all the others that commented it appears the approved regulations are much more reasonable than the original proposal. However, as usual, the law is poorly written. For example, if one arrives, then anchors for 10 days, haven’t you already demonstrated that you can navigate your vessel? How else would you get there? If you sail away for a week and then return for another 10 days do you have to once again demonstrate you can navigate by going to a designated location? Do these laws also apply to boats on moorings? If not, why not? Also, how can one provide proof of pumpout if you don’t pumpout–using a composting or incinerating system, or a porta pottie? This just further adds confusion to the hodge-podge of anti-anchoring ordinances in Florida that most boaters will be completely unaware of.
John Kettlewell

We have a 75 gallon holding tank. If we pump it every ten days, to get our money’s worth we are going to have to invite many, many guests aboard to take a…
Chris

My inclination is to plan on sailing through those areas, i.e. stop before & after; there are enough challenges without jumping through hoops and being hasselled. Current state law allows recovery of costs for ‘derelict’ vessels which go down or threaten safety of others from the registered owners. my 2c.
David Hendry

How will boats with composting heads comply with the proof of pump out requirement?
Dick Mills

Some composting toilets are classified as “portable” just like a porta potty. Because they don’t have holding tanks, they are exempt from such regulations. Believe it or not, the USCG prefers portable systems if it is possible and reasonable to use. Portable systems are much more difficult to discharge illegally because to discharge them you have to be conspicuous. You can’t simply go below and open a valve out of sight. Additionally, with a portable composting toilet, there is no urgency to empty the collection container and therefore no need to break the law.
Sandy Graves

Hard to demonstrate pump-out when the Martin County pump-out boat doesn’t show up.
H Mason

Being the only person aboard my boat with a 50 gal. holding tank, I only need a pump out twice a month, at the most. I last pumped out at Stuart Loggerhead Marina when I fueled and the receipt had no mention of a pump out. I keep a pump out logbook. If a logbook is sufficient for the FAA , why not for Martin County?
Don Neville

We are planning a cruise south from the Chesapeake Bay through Florida this winter (2013). How can we find out where we can or cannot anchor in the Boater Friendly State of Florida. Thanks
Raymond W. Smith, Fire Dog

I guess Stuart will just have to served notice of intent to suit for violation of civil rights afet the first ticket is issued to a composting boat, interesting politicians in that area, dumb would be a compliment.
Dennis McMurtry

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