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    • AGLCA Lobbying Reports from Florida Legislature

      Our thanks to Kim Russo, Director of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, for this report of Florida legislative action on anchoring rights currently under discussion. See Donations Sought to Fight Anti-Anchoring Legislation in Florida and Anchorage Harassment.

      Once again, thank you to those who contributed to our Advocacy Fund, which allowed us to be represented in Tallahassee during the Florida legislative session. Our efforts were highly successful. Following is a recap submitted by our lobbyist:

      “During the 2019 Legislative Session there were multiple bills filed that could affect cruisers’ interests including the freedom to responsibly anchor in Florida waters. There were multiple communities that attempted to further restrict anchoring. The City of Melbourne, for example, sought legislative language that would bypass the provisions that our Associations got passed 2 years ago which pre-empted all anchoring restrictions to the State level (i.e. no local governments can pass ordinances relating to anchoring, except for the narrowly-defined live-aboard vessels). Melbourne’s approach was to re-define the term live-aboard vessel so that it would apply to most vessels at anchor and therefore allow them to ban anchoring. This attempt was defeated despite strong lobbying efforts by the City and influential legislators. The City of Hollywood and others sought to ban anchoring in specific anchorages. This was also defeated, again, despite strong lobbying efforts by the City and influential legislators.

      “Ultimately, the Legislature passed only one relevant bill, SB 1666 which awaits signature or veto by the Governor. This bill attempts to address the problem of long-term ‘stored vessels’ that are essentially abandoned in anchorages. Our Associations supported and helped draft these provisions. The bill defines the term ‘long-term stored vessel’ to mean a vessel which has remained anchored or moored without supervision or control for at least 30 days out of a 60-day period. It requires the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) to conduct a study on the impacts of long-term stored vessels on local communities and the state, and to present the report to the Governor and Legislature.

      “The bill also provides a certain portion of vessel registration fees designated for use by the counties to be deposited into the Marine Resources Conservation Trust Fund to fund grants for derelict vessel removal. Funds not granted to local governments by a certain date in the fiscal year may be used by the FWC to remove derelict vessels.

      “The bill also prohibits a person who leaves or abandons a derelict vessel from residing or dwelling on the vessel until it is permanently removed from state waters or returned to waters in a nonderelict condition.

      “The bill also authorizes counties designated as rural areas of opportunity to create in freshwater water-bodies within their jurisdiction a ‘no-discharge zone’ where treated and untreated sewage discharges are prohibited for specified vessels. It requires vessel operators within a no-discharge zone to keep sewage discharges onboard for discharge at sea or onshore at a pump-out facility and imposes a civil penalty and declares the vessel or floating structure a nuisance and hazard to public safety and health if an unlawful discharge is made in a no-discharge zone.

      “AGLCA, along with MTOA, SSCA and the DeFever Owners Association, was effective and influential throughout the Legislative Session, ensuring that proposed legislation did not impair the freedom of cruisers to responsibly access and utilize Florida’s waters, especially its anchorages. We also maintained a focus on policies that can help remove vessels that are derelict or at risk of becoming derelict.”

      Our next task is to work during the off season to see if a compromise can be reached with parties that want to limit anchoring. Our hope is that we won’t have to continue to fight this year-after-year.

      Kim Russo
      Director
      America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association

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