VERY IMPORTANT – Florida Keys Anchoring Regulations Approved
On Wednesday, September 5, 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the Monroe County anchorage regulations associated with the Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program. While the final version must still be approved by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, that final nod would seem to be a mere formality. We conclude that, after all the many public forums, voluminous comments published here on the Cruisers’ Net and on other nautical forums, and a lot of GOOD work by our very special Florida Keys correspondent (and founder of BARR – Boaters’ Action Rights and Resonsibilties), Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, we have a new set of Florida Keys anchorage regulations which will almost certainly be in effect by the winter 2012 – 2013 cruising season! HOWEVER, as you will see, this is not nearly as onerous as it initially sounds!
Following my editorial remarks below, you will discover a LOT of verbiage about these regulations, but even before you read, and try to make sense of all that, we want to distill the facts for you as best we can. And, believe it or else, from all that we have been able to gather, the bottom line is this is really a “good thing” (mostly) for the cruising community. It’s NOT a good thing for those who live ashore and want to store their boats for free at anchor. Read on!
First of all, everyone needs to remember that, for many years now, all of the Florida Keys (Monroe County) waters have been a NO DISCHARGE ZONE. That means, among other things, that ALL vessels must regularly pump out their waste tanks, and Lectra San type devices are NOT acceptable. And, along with these long-time regulations, comes the possibility of legal boardings by any law enforcement agency to make sure that overboard discharge vales are PADLOCKED SHUT and all other MSD regulations are being observed!
The status of all Florida Keys MSD regulations remain the same as has been the case for some time. The new anchorage regulations detailed below do not change these prohibitions in any way.
The new Florida Keys anchorage regulations really boil down to three new prohibitions:
1. Within the managed anchorages (see below) vessel owners must show evidence of regular waste pump-outs when asked to furnish such proof by a law enforcement officer.
2. Within the managed anchorages, law enforcement officers now have the ability to ticket vessels they consider derelicts or near derelicts (in danger or sinking or breaking free).
3. In Marathon and Key West, “no anchorage buffer zones” have been established around the city mooring fields.
OK, what does this mean to the cruising community. First, in sifting through all the print below, we discover that the only “managed anchorages” are found on the waters of Boca Chica Basin, Key West Harbor, Cow Key Channel and Boot Key Harbor. NOTE THAT THE NEW REGULATIONS APPLY ONLY TO VESSELS ANCHORED IN THESE MANAGED BASINS. If you, for instance, throw out the hook hard by Lignumvitae Key (near Islamorado), none of the new regs apply, excepting those which have already been in force by virtue of the fact that Florida Keys waters are a no discharge zone!
One other quick note about the managed anchorages; originally Sunset Cove in Key Largo was slated to be among this group, but the FWC, quite correctly we think, decided these waters are much too far from a state approved mooring field to be included.
It appears to us that the real intent of these new regulations is to help make sure vessels are not pumping raw sewage overboard, AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, to provide law enforcement officers with a new tool to help remove abandoned, derelict and near derelict vessels from Florida Keys waters.
If you have read earlier Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net editorials on Florida Anchoring Rights, you already know that it is our collective opinion that one of the real culprits in this struggle has been the Sunshine State’s very real problem with derelicts and what I term, “live-aboard hulks.” These are vessels that will never move again (unless it’s straight down to the bottom), and certainly should not be afforded anything like the status of “cruising craft.”
Yes, the new Florida Keys anchorage regulations are NOT perfect! HOWEVER, it is our editorial opinion that these new prohibitions are a genuine effort to address the derelict problem, without driving the cruising community away from the Florida Keys!
If your eyes can stand it, read on, and let us know whether you agree with our assessment, or not! PLEASE send your reactions to CruisersNet@triad.twcbc.com.
The FWC knows it cannot stop the recreational use of waters (navigational use is even more important). It’s a very thin line. Bottom line is that I think we all agree their target is becoming clearer, even for landlubbers who want sailors to stay out of their backyards (that isn’t going to be upheld by the FWC): the focus is to deter boats from becoming derelict and ultimately left behind for someone else to clean up.
It puts out the warning sign to those across the nation that the Keys is not someplace you can just find anything that floats to live upon and shirk responsibility. I have no problem with that. This is good, as it does not tread upon the needs of cruisers or even those who are responsible on their liveaboards.
Our influence was vital for harnessing in the tendency of others to overreach with even more unnecessary regulations. I have no doubt we all made a tremendous difference in how these ordinances were written.
Kudos to us!!
No real surprise, but I do feel our efforts in some small way contributed to making the ordinance more reasonable. I can see our influence in many parts of the ordinance.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
State suggests new ruling for live-aboards
BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commissioner Richard Corbett cited the “pirate-like mentality” of Florida Keys live-aboard boaters before he voted in favor of a new set of rules for vessels moored off the Keys. He wanted to make sure the test rules will not only be enforced, but be complied with.
“We are going to start out gentle but we are going to keep applying pressure until we get compliance,” FWC Major Jack Daugherty said Wednesday during a meeting in Tampa. “The Keys are a diverse place with a lot of diverse people …. We want to get voluntary compliance.
The only way to get to compliance is to warn …. Educate, educate and educate.” Corbett called the Keys a “truly different part of the world.”
The rules require proof of regular sewage pump-out and the tagging of vessels at risk of sinking or becoming derelict. Vessels would be
labeled at risk of sinking at the discretion of law enforcement officers based on certain criteria, such as listing, being aground, beached or taking on water.
The rules also create “no-anchoring buffer zones” adjacent to the mooring fields in the cities of Key West and Marathon, where officials
have expressed concern about vessels breaking free and striking boats inside managed mooring fields. The rules will be for non-managed mooring fields off Key West Harbor and Cow Key Channel off Stock Island.
The rules, which were created by Monroe County’s Marine Resources Division, do not call for violators’ vessels to be removed, but the owners would be warned and eventually face fines if the issues were not addressed. After a first warning, a $50 fine would be levied. The
fine would increase to $100 for a second offense, and $250 for a third offense. All subsequent offenses would be $250.
Owners would have 30 days between fines to address issues, said Rich Jones, Monroe County’s marine resources division director.
“This is in no way intended to push boaters out,” Jones told the FWC board on Wednesday. “We want them to be responsible …. We don’t have a silver bullet. What you see are the best ideas that are tolerable to the public.”
The rules still have to come before the Monroe County Commission before they are implemented. The County Commission has not set a date
to vote on the rules.
The commission has given tentative approval of the rules.
If approved, the rules would be in place until 2014. They will then be reviewed by the FWC and sent to the state legislature, which could
vote to make them permanent.
Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) Offical Press Release:
Meeting Wednesday in Tampa, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved, with one contingency, Monroe 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.
Three meetings were held in Monroe County on the topic. “Monroe County’s ordinance provides for some specific areas designated as ‘˜managed anchoring zones’ and ‘˜no-anchoring buffer zones,'”Daugherty said.
The managed anchoring zones, including Boca Chica Basin, Sunset Cove, Key West Harbor, Cow Key Channel and Boot Key Harbor, are areas in which vessels need to meet certain requirements – including proof they have been pumped out – and do not present certain characteristics:
specifically, being derelict or pre-derelict vessels.
“These requirements are designed to protect the marine environment, enhance navigational safety and deter improperly stored, abandoned or
derelict vessels,” Daugherty said.
The “no-anchoring buffer zones,” including Boca Chica Basin, Boot Key Harbor and Seaplane Basin, are areas outside of and immediately adjacent to permitted public mooring fields. There, no anchoring or mooring of any kind is permitted.
“There are exceptions for certain vessels and activities,” Daugherty said, “like commercial vessels, military operations, vessels anchored
temporarily for fishing or other recreational activities and in case of an emergency.”
Commissioners discussed the ordinance, asked questions and heard public comment, ultimately approving it with the contingency that the Sunset Cove-managed anchorage zone provision be removed.
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. Public meetings also have been held in the other four participant sites: Sarasota; Stuart, in coordination with Martin County; St. Petersburg; and St. Augustine. The ordinances for St. Augustine, St. Petersburg and Sarasota have already been approved, and the developing ordinances from the remaining area will be presented at future Commission meetings.
For more information on the anchoring and mooring pilot program, visit
MyFWC.com/Boating or call 850-488-5600.
And, below we present comments on the new Florida Keys anchorage regulations from the cruising community:
In general the management of mooring fields has had a positive impact. In fairness, however, if boaters need to prove that they have been responsible with their poop then pet owners should also provide proof of responsible poop disposal. We could also include cities waste treatment plants that frequently, if not always, do not meet epa standards. And then elctra-scan owners who treat their waste at a higher level of cleanliness than required of cities seem to be treated a little worse than their poop. All that said, thanks for the hard and tedious work.
Always FOR SAILtoo
Thank You Claiborne and Ms. Ladd for all your hard work and communications efforts.
IMHO there is a lack of pump-out facilities in the Keys. Many of the public marinas below Miami do not have pump-out. Sailboats with limited holding tanks have a problem if anchoring for any period of time. You must get to Marathon or Key West where there are pump-out boats, but now you won’t be able to anchor. Both locations were full-up last year and probably will be this year.
In your comments you state law enforcement officials will be able to board vessels to insure overboard discharge valves are “padlocked shut”. I am not aware of a change in the Florida MSD regs that require “padlocking” as the only means of securing the valve. At last reading my impression is that the valve must be “secured”. I spoke to Lt. Dave Dupree (FWC Monroe County) a few years ago and he advised locking, wire ties, removal of the handle or similar solutions to prevent accidental discharge. Has there been a regulation change I am unaware of or is there one in the actual new proposed regulations?
John N. Cover,
No, as far as I know there has not been a change in the “secured” requirements of overboard discharge valves. I used the term “padlocking” because my research has consistently shown that just chaining the overboard valves is NOT sufficient, and can result in ticketing. I suspect your research is also correct, in that wire ties and removal of the handle would also be considered “secured.” However, with that being said, what we have always done while cruising in the keys is chain and padlock our overboard discharge valves. This plan has passed multiple inspections over the years.