Florida Anchoring; Action Required to Preserve Our Right to Anchor

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The great state of Florida has had a schizophrenic relationship with cruising boaters for many years. In the past, each municipality had it own rules in regards to anchoring. Some wouldn’t allow it at all, while some limited anchoring to a few days. Some cities/towns didn’t mind liveaboards and cruisers and had no restrictions on anchoring at all.

I don’t have space to rehash the complete history of boaters fighting for the right to anchor in Florida waters, but it all seemed to be settled a few years back with the creation of the mooring field pilot program. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a reasonable compromise that we’ve learned to live with. There was extensive research and ample opportunity for public comment. The program was extended just recently.

Then during the 2014 legislative session, a Democratic lawmaker forwarded a bill to that would once again allow municipalities to make up their own rules. It was defeated. Over the past winter, the FWC made thinly veiled attempts to restrict anchoring through regulation, rather than legislation. They circulated a very poorly written survey with no option to disagree with a certain provision. This provision would create a “set-back”, restricting anchoring within so many feet of developed property.

Now, it’s 2015 and a Republican lawmaker has put forth yet another bill to restrict anchoring. It calls for a 200 foot set-back from any developed property. It is also poorly written, with no explanation of how this would be measured or enforced. The 200 foot buffer zone would virtually eliminate most anchorages in southeast Florida, and severly restrict anchoring along the entire length of the ICW in Florida. There are numerous anchorages on the west coast and in the Keys that would also be affected. It even disallows anchoring within 200 feet of a mooring field, which would eliminate most of the anchorages in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon.The entire text of the bill can be seen here:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/1548/BillText/Filed/HTML

But the issue is this;
An owner, operator, or person in charge of a vessel may not anchor or moor a vessel within 200 feet of the shoreline of developed waterfront property, as defined in s. 327.02, between the times of one hour past sunset and one hour before sunrise.

What do we do? Send emails. Today. Be civil and polite. But make it clear that you strongly oppose ANY set-back.

Here are the people you need to email, the committee members:

Chairman Charlie Dean: dean.charles@flsenate.gov
Vice Chairman Wilton Simpson: simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov
Senator Thad Altman: altman.thad@flsenate.gov
Senator Greg Evers: evers.greg@flsenate.gov
Senator Alan Hays: hays.alan@flsenate.gov
Senator David Simmons: simmons.david@flsenate.gov
Senator Chris Smith: smith.chris@flsenate.gov
Senator Darren Soto: soto.darren@flsenate.gov

Here are the points you should make. Try not to copy and paste, but if you have to – hell, do it. Just get the letters out there.
1. As boaters and cruisers, we support the SAFETY-RELATED provisions of SB 1548 that directly relate to the stated purpose and title of the bill which is Vessel Safety such as: the provisions limiting anchoring within a safe distance from a marked mooring field, public boat ramp, marine railway, launching facility or landing facility. Similarly, public safety justifies the provisions restricting the anchoring or mooring of a vessel that is incapable of navigating under its own power, vessels that cannot dewater, vessels leaking petroleum, vessels in violation of marine sanitation laws, and vessels that are unattended or derelict. We support all of these provisions.
2. But statewide legislation should not include provisions that are founded upon interests that are not necessary for safety. We oppose provisions that are designed to establish preferential rights or control over areas of public waters of the State of Florida based upon setbacks from all “developed waterfront property” that would arbitrarily create areas of public waterways within which occupants of boats may not anchor. Such provisions are related to convenience, preference, and aesthetics, rather than safety, and would result in laws that pick between classes and groups of people based upon the nature of the structure they choose to occupy.
3. Therefore, we strongly oppose the provision banning overnight anchoring in public water anywhere within 200 feet of a dwelling unit that was built on private land. We respectfully ask that, as members of this Committee, you please remove this provision
4. We are sensitive to the concerns raised by some legislators and constituents about issues related to anchored boats. Some of these relate to disputes about between a few individual high-profile property owners and boaters. We recognize that these concerns have increased and will continue to increase as more people move to Florida and buy properties located adjacent to public land such as submerged land and the waterways above it along Florida’s coast.
5. As to disputes between individual upland property owners and boaters, we believe those are matters that are proper for handling on a case-by-case basis through enforcement of civil and penal measures, such a nuisance and harassment. Although existing laws allow for policing of such bad conduct, we would support reforms that strengthen the enforcement tools to help resolve such disputes. But we do not believe the proper approach is to pass sweeping statutory statewide bans on where members of the public can anchor on public waterways throughout the State.
6. Waterfront property owners (including many of us boaters) must be reminded that the marine coastal resources of this State are not private. They are public. The submerged lands that would be roped off by a blanket set-back would encompass land that is owned by the State and, accordingly, by ALL Floridians … including many of the boaters and cruisers who also own land in Florida and pay taxes in Florida to help support the State’s ownership of this submerged land.
7. We understand the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” or NIMBY concept. But public waters are not the “back yard” to any waterfront private property. It is public submerged land. The back yard of upland private property ends at the mean high waterline. Every waterfront property purchaser knew this when they purchased their land. As upland property owners, we should not expect the government to give us control and dominion over public waters just because we purchased private property adjacent to it.
8. Such a blanket setback covering lands owned by the public would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to proposals by people owning property adjacent to other public lands (such as condos on a beach and houses next to state parks) … asking that beachgoers stay off the beach and park visitors stay away from the boundaries of state parks.
9. Similarly, as boaters, we recognize that it would be improper for us to ask government to give us control and dominion of land that is upland of the waterline through a provision preventing landowners from locating their house or condominium within 200 feet of any shoreline. This too would be unfair. To be fair, we recognize that private upland property is not the “back yard” of boaters.
10. We’ve heard some people in the capitol tell stories about their experiences with boats anchored near properties they own on a lake. Remember, marine coastal waterways are very different from a private lake. First, coastal waterways are not private at all. Second, in most lakes, the depths throughout it allow anchoring just about anywhere. With marine coastal waters, however, there is a small number of areas where there is enough depth to anchor a vessel and enough depth in the areas necessary to access those anchorages … and where there is adequate protection from the wind and weather. These anchoring spots are unique and serve as the basis for the estimated 1,000,000 boats travelling throughout Florida’s waterways annually.
11. The proponents of such this anchoring ban have not performed a necessary analysis showing the consequences such as the number of anchorages that would be eliminated by a particular setback. Without that geographic and bathymetric analysis, it is very risky to adopt such a setback.
12. Remember too, that there are some stretches of the Inter Coastal Waterway where there may only be a couple small suitable anchorages within a stretch of 50 miles or so and theses spots are necessary resting grounds for boaters seeking safe, daytime travel, and safe night time rest. We would not want to take away these safe havens for the convenience or view of others who are safely ashore.
13. The proponents of the anchoring setback have not performed a necessary analysis showing the economic consequences such as the amount of lost revenue, lost taxes, and lost jobs resulting from the exclusion of so many customers supporting so many coastal small businesses from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, Southeast FL and all the way to Jacksonville. It is not clear to us that local businesses and Chambers of Commerce have been included in this discussion … although there are some local Chambers that are starting to take notice. Without this economic analysis and full involvement from the small business community, we believe such a provision is not ripe for consideration.
14. Access to Florida’s coastal waterways is a key component of this State’s rich maritime history. One recent article asked whether Florida is becoming ‘…The most cruiser-unfriendly state’. This is a sad trend. To many, Florida MEANS water and the salt life. This needs to be preserved, protected, and jealously guarded.

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