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News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Anchoring ban bill passes FL House subcommittee

Date Posted: 2016-01-26
Source: Florida House of Representatives

Caldwell.jpg(Updated)

Florida legislation that would ban overnight anchoring in several areas popular with cruising boaters passed unanimously in a House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing today.

House Bill 1051, with a "strike through" amendment, was voted on as the first of five bills on the agenda noon to 2 p.m. in Reed Hall at the State Capitol in Tallahassee. The strike-through amendment adds exemptions to the anchoring prohibitions in the case of emergency or during government sanctioned events. It also exempts certain activities, including "vessels engaged in recreational fishing if persons onboard are actively tending hook and line fishing gear or nets." The bill will now be referred to a second House committee or subcommittee.

Six attendees spoke at the hearing, four of which were against the bill as written. All parties expressed a willingness to continue working on the bill to make it fairer to cruising boaters.

According to the bill text, "a person may not anchor or moor a vessel at any time between the hours from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise in the following recreational boating zones:

  • The section of Middle River lying between Northeast 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County. (Middle River is one of the very few viable anchorages for cruising-sized boats in the Fort Lauderdale area. At the public workshop (held by the State Affairs Committee of the Florida House of Representatives on October 8, 2015), Rep. George Moraitis, Jr. of Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) stated that he planned to introduce a bill that would declare Middle River a "Water Recreation Area" where anchoring is prohibited. He said that he has constituents who complain that water skiers have no room due to the amount of boats anchored there – see related WaterwayGuide.com article: Anchoring setbacks and time limits discussed at Florida House.)
  • Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County. (This Miami Beach anchorage is popular for cruisers waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas, and in the past afforded easy access to Miami Beach for services and provisioning. It is adjacent to the residence of one of the most vocal advocates of anchoring bans in Miami Beach, who has anchored 30 small sailboats in Sunset Lake behind his house to restrict others from the ability to anchor there – see related WaterwayGuide.com article noted above. The City of Miami Beach recently passed an amendment to an ordinance which now makes it unlawful to tie a dinghy to the canal wall to visit the city, leaving only limited dinghy access – see related WaterwayGuide.com article: Miami Beach cracks down on dinghy access).
  • The sections of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County lying between Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and San Marco Island and Biscayne Island. (This is another popular anchorage area for cruisers, and one section is adjacent to the residence of another vocal advocate of anchoring bans. These islands are connected by low causeways, and the anchorage areas are in no way well-suited for water-skiing – see related WaterwayGuide.com article noted above.)
  • Crab Island in Choctawhatchee Bay at the East Pass in Okaloosa County. (This is a popular party spot in Destin Harbor. In October 2015, Okaloosa County had requested to establish a vessel exclusion zone consisting of a 40 foot wide corridor through the area "to allow unobstructed access by emergency vehicles and vessels to provide services to protect the public," according to a notice from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – see related WaterwayGuide.com article: Vessel exclusion zone ordinance requested for Destin FL party spot.)

The strike-thru amendment adds exemptions to the rule. A vessel may anchor in a recreational boating zone as follows:

  • When a vessel suffers a mechanical failure that will pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or its occupants if the vessel does not anchor, the vessel may anchor until repaired or for 3 business days after first anchoring within the recreational boating zone, whichever occurs first.
  • When imminent or existing weather conditions in the vicinity of a vessel will pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or its occupants if the vessel does not anchor, the vessel may anchor until weather conditions improve to the point where operating the vessel no longer poses an unreasonable risk of harm. In the event of a hurricane or tropical storm, weather conditions are deemed to have improved to the point where operating the vessel no longer poses an unreasonable risk of harm when the hurricane or tropical storm warning affecting the area has expired.
  • During events described in s. 327.48 or during other special events, such as public music performances, local government waterfront activities, boat parades, and fireworks displays, a vessel may anchor for the duration of the special event or for 3 days, whichever occurs first.

This (rule) does not apply to the following vessels:

  • Vessels owned or operated by a governmental entity for law enforcement, firefighting, military, or rescue purposes.
  • Construction or dredging vessels while on an active job site.
  • Vessels actively engaged in commercial fishing.
  • Vessels engaged in recreational fishing if persons onboard are actively tending hook and line fishing gear or nets.

The penalties would be as follows:

  1. For a first offense, up to a maximum of $50.
  2. For a second offense, up to a maximum of $100.
  3. For a third or subsequent offense, up to a maximum of $250.

According to the bill, "any person cited for a violation of any provision of this subsection shall be deemed to be charged with a noncriminal infraction, shall be cited for such an infraction, and shall be cited to appear before the county court. The civil penalty for any such infraction is $50, except as otherwise provided in this section. Any person who fails to appear or otherwise properly respond to a uniform boating citation shall, in addition to the charge relating to the violation of the boating laws of this state, be charged with the offense of failing to respond to such citation and, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A written warning to this effect shall be provided at the time such uniform boating citation is issued."

If enacted, the provisions would take effect July 1, 2016.

A matching Senate Bill – SB 1260 – was introduced in early January by Senator Wilton Simpson of New Port Richey, FL, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. 

Branon Edwards of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times posted this editorial today before the hearing: 

A battle is heating up between rich owners of waterfront property and boaters who, instead of docking, use anchors to keep their boats cheaply (free!) in the Intracoastal Waterway. The rich have argued that these anchored boats ruin their view — especially vessels that have been abandoned and become decrepit. Many boaters, however, contend that they are responsible and have rights to use the waterway. 

As they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In this case, the squeaky wheel appears to be wealthy property owners along Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, and the grease is a nasty bit of proposed legislation known in the House as HB1051 and in the Senate as SB1260. Both bills in Tallahassee aim to make it illegal to anchor overnight in parts of the Intracoastal Waterway despite the waterway having been used for this purpose since its inception.

It seems that some Florida homeowners believe they have rights that extend past their property lines. They may not own the bay bottom, riparian rights, or even the air rights, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel they’re entitled to an unobstructed view or privacy that extends beyond their legal ownership...

Continue reading Broward-Palm Beach New Times article: Lawmakers May Ban Anchoring of Boats in Intracoastal Waterway.

  • Comment submitted by George Balfour - Tue, Jan 26th

    Thesepeople should be absolutely ashamed of themselves! This whole motion stinks of corruption from top to bottom.

  • Comment submitted by Kari - Wed, Jan 27th

    What can we do? BoatUS & boating groups need to work together to stop this!

  • Comment submitted by Phil Barbalace - Thu, Jan 28th

    I thought we boaters just successfully fought this last year. Is this an annual or continuous battle? Also, with all the money we boaters spend at local restaurants and other services (in our case thousands a year) you would think the local politicians would at least make some accomodation for limited anchoring and dinghy access to urban areas.

  • Comment submitted by J R Kerr - Thu, Jan 28th

    The French Revolution comes to mind.

  • Comment submitted by Will - Thu, Jan 28th

    Sunset Lake: Been there and dealt with that person, their only view is other homes, no scenic vista's as claimed. Those 30 boats need to be checked for current registrations!

  • Comment submitted by Sandy - Thu, Jan 28th

    You would think the good of many, meaning the local economy, businesses and boaters would outweigh the fear of not being reelected. But that's the problem with over paid government officials with lifetime benefits. Who are they really representing?

  • Comment submitted by Bill Williamson - Thu, Jan 28th

    I have had other dealings with the political class of Florida, and they are self serving, corrupt, basically like most career politicians. I could never understand how they can justify limiting use of a "natural resource" that was further developed by federal tax dollars (our money) to provide for the whole of society.

  • Comment submitted by Gus - Fri, Jan 29th

    Let's forget Miami and FLL Let's all go to CUBA

  • Comment submitted by Steve - Fri, Jan 29th

    Typical. Its just like the people who buy houses near airports, complain of the noise, then try to limit when and what aircraft can use them. Lets face it. Its about money. People who live on the water have it. Politicians want it.

  • Comment submitted by Capt. Robert - Fri, Jan 29th

    Do you hear that? It's the sound of a giant row of dominoes beginning to fall. The waterfront homeowners are watching this very carefully and everybody will want to have their own ban. Punish the derelict boat owners, not the responsible boaters who travel our state!!

  • Comment submitted by Brooke Smith - Mon, Feb 1st

    That's it for my boating in Florida. We are in Islamorada at the Bayside Marina for two months. All marinas are pretty full. I got royally ripped of in Miami. $14 days $125/ day at Harbor West marina. Everything was full and he quote me 125. I thought he meant $1.25/ foot. He meant $125/ night. Slip is bouncing floating dock with electricity and water. No bathroom or pump out in a seedy apartment. Marathon city marina is full with a 3 page waiting list. Plantation key has a waiting. List. With anchoring restrictions I guess I'll turn the nag lights on a set the autopilot in a circle. Or anchor in the day and operate at night. Brooke Smith 36' Albin LIQUID THERAPY in Florida for the last winter trip.

  • Comment submitted by Capt J Price - Fri, Apr 15th

    The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue. As boaters we need to ban together and bring lawsuits against every representative who voted for this bill and the Governor. If challenged in court they will lose. This issue needs to go all the way to the US Supreme Court to put an end to this crap one and for all.

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