May 2, 2009

Florida Anchoring and Mooring Law

A new law is being considered in Florida that could have a huge impact on transient boaters who like to anchor out. I am opposed to this law, as it currently stands, for the following reasons:

1. The law allows cities to create mooring fields (the so-called "pilot" program) that drastically reduce, and quite possibly eliminate, anchoring opportunities in these communities. These mooring fields will probably take up all of the best anchoring room, and the law allows cities to enact ordinances prohibiting anchoring outside the mooring fields. Note that the mooring fields in Ft. Myers Beach and Marathon have essentially eliminated all anchoring except for the shallowest draft boats. This law does not protect access for the public, and in particular transient boaters.
2. The law does say that the laws limiting anchoring around mooring fields must be approved by the FWC with proper input, but that is an awfully vague standard. No limits are placed on these laws. This is a huge loophole through which very onerous laws could be enacted. There should be clear-cut criteria on limiting anchoring: not within so many feet of the moorings might make some sense. But to allow communities to dream up any laws, subject only to the approval or disapproval of the FWC, puts total trust in our lawmakers, and provides no protection for boaters.
In any case, this may be a moot point in many harbors (like Ft. Myers Beach and Marathon). If the mooring fields cover all of the good anchoring area, there won't be anyplace to anchor.
3. There are miscellaneous disasters in the law waiting to happen. One that jumped out at me is that counties will be allowed to charge boaters up to half of the regular Florida registration fee for the privilege of being in the county. Every county will look at this as a way to pick up revenue by hounding boaters for their fees and probably requiring some sort of sticker to prove that you've paid.
In short, this law does nothing for transient boaters, and probably will also negatively impact Floridians who wish to cruise the state.