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Florida anchoring restrictions bill goes to governor

The Florida Senate voted 36-2 Monday to adopt a House-initiated bill that would limit anchoring at five locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The Florida Senate voted 36-2 Monday to adopt a House-initiated bill that would limit anchoring at five locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The House approved the measure by a vote of 105-12 on Friday.

The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. He has seven days to sign or veto it. If he signs the measure, it will take effect July 1.

HB 1051 would prohibit anchoring from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise on the Middle River between N.E. 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County; Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County; and 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.

The bill gives vessel operators some reprieve from the restrictions if their boat suffers a dangerous mechanical failure, if weather conditions pose a risk if they move their boat, or if they are attending a special event. Recreational and commercial fishermen actively engaged in fishing; government, law enforcement, military and fire-rescue boats; and construction and dredge vessels on active jobs would be exempted from the rule.

HB 1051, in effect, exempts the five anchorages in Broward and Miami-Dade counties from a 2009 state law that prohibits localities from preventing liveaboards or cruising boats from anchoring in their waters.

The bill makes the case that these waters should be exempt because they are in “densely populated urban areas which have narrow state waterways, residential docking facilities and significant recreational boating traffic.”

These also are anchorages where there has been user conflict between boaters and waterfront property owners, who say boaters anchor behind their homes for weeks at a time and are an eyesore and a nuisance.

“Even after hearing from thousands of Florida boaters requesting they not approve this legislation, the Florida Senate has just decided to treat a few areas differently than the rest of the state when it comes to public access to the waterways,” BoatUS president Margaret Bonds Podlich said in a statement. “Despite [Monday’s] vote we remain committed to seeing the [Florida Mooring and Anchoring Pilot Program] through to completion. We want to work with all communities so that responsible cruising boaters are welcome in their waters.”

The pilot program, created through legislation in 2009, allowed five localities to experiment with anchoring ordinances to find practical recommendations to develop a uniform statewide anchoring solution.

The program prevents other local governments from enacting general anchoring restrictions unless they receive approval from the legislature. Originally scheduled to end in 2014, the program was extended until 2017. Recommendations are due from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the legislature this fall, BoatUS said.

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