Anchoring restrictions bill advances in Florida Senate

A bill that would limit anchoring at five locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties cleared a Florida Senate subcommittee on Wednesday in an 8-1 vote.

SB 1260, a pared version of a similar bill proposed last year that would create exemptions to a 2009 state law prohibiting localities from keeping liveaboards or cruising boats from anchoring in their waters, was approved by the Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

The measure is scheduled to go to the Committee on Fiscal Policy on Tuesday.

It would prohibit anchoring from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise on the Middle River between N.E. 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County; in Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County; and in the sections of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County between Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and San Marco Island and Biscayne Island.

These are waters where there has been user conflict between boaters and waterfront property owners, who say the boaters anchor behind their homes for weeks or months and are an eyesore and a nuisance.

The bill, however, makes the case that anchoring should not be allowed in these waters because they are in “densely populated urban areas, which have narrow state waterways, residential docking facilities and significant recreational boating traffic and are located in counties with populations exceeding 1.5 million residents.”

SB 1260 narrowly cleared the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee in a 5-4 vote on Feb. 17. The bill raised some concerns at that hearing.

"You don't let certain things happen on I-95 that we let happen on a local road, and this is what we're looking at," The News Service of Florida quoted Sen. Chris Smith, of Fort Lauderdale, saying is SB 1260’s rationale. "You're not banning. You've got places where people can drop anchor, and you need to keep them out of the high-traffic areas."

Some senators said the bill might be unconstitutional because it would not apply uniformly across the state, but others said it is an ineffective stopgap, The News Service reported.

"This is a statewide issue, and this bill is not a statewide solution," said Sen. Greg Evers, of Baker. "What's going to happen is we're going to be back here next year, and we're going to have other areas, other groups and other cities wanting the same special treatment that we have created this time. And it will never stop."

Boaters lobbied for years for the 2009 law, which ended a patchwork of local anchoring laws that were making it harder to find anchorages in Florida.

"We feel that singling out specific anchorages is not the way to address the problems that exist in the area," Phil Werndli, of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, told the environmental preservation committee. "Rather than a piecemeal approach to regulation, we strongly urge that this bill be tabled and allow the legislature to address a statewide policy and framework."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to complete a study of pilot mooring fields in St. Augustine, Martin County, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and the Florida Keys by July 2017, The News Service said. The commission adopted the pilot mooring fields, hoping they might be a way to deal with anchoring issues.


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