Friday, November 25, 2011

Florida anchoring battle continues

In mid-November the FWC approved St. Augustine's restrictive anchoring ordinance, but didn't allow the 10-day anchoring limit, which was replaced with a 30-day limit. In Stuart/Martin County rules that would have eliminated all anchoring in Manatee Pocket seem to have been shot down. But, both areas continue to move forward with ordinances that will both confuse boaters and law enforcement and limit anchoring opportunities. St. Augustine has all sorts of set-back rules for how close you are allowed to anchor to maritime infrastructure and channels, while Stuart/Martin County are pushing no anchoring within 300 feet of shore, infrastructure, or the moorings in the St. Lucie River and not within 1000 feet in the Jensen Beach area. In all cases the laws are so poorly worded that even those of us in the know are not sure exactly what they mean, and once they are enacted many anchorers are bound to get caught up in a snarl of red tape. I strongly suspect it will take a court of law to sort it all out, at further cost to the taxpayers and boaters in these areas.
     One nice piece of news was the creation of a website showing precisely where you can anchor legally in St. Augustine. The site also provides lot of great information for boaters on the area. As these communities write up ever more restrictive ordinances you will find boaters adapting and innovating like this in order to continue to enjoy cruising as we know it, despite official efforts to chase us away.
     Over in St. Pete there is no good news. The Vinoy Basin is now closed to anchoring while the mooring field is built there. This will eliminate the only sheltered anchorage convenient to downtown St. Pete, unless the weather cooperates enough to allow you to chance anchoring east of the waterfront out in Tampa Bay. The city is also exploring the idea of limiting or prohibiting anchoring in other nearby anchorages.
     The Sarasota mooring field fiasco continues, with something in the nature of $500,000 + already spent on getting permitting, engineering studies, failed mooring experiments, and a pumpout boat. By the time all is said and done the city will have spent close to $1.5 million and will have 35 moorings to show for it. The current plan sounds dubious to this sailor: steel H beams will be driven into the limestone substrate in lieu of the helical screws which can't penetrate the bottom. This will be a very noisy and environmentally dirty project in creation, and I am uncertain what projected longevity it will have. An active group of local sailors is working with the city to try and prevent onerous anchoring ordinances designed to drive boaters onto the pay moorings or away from the city.
     Unfortunately, the average taxpayer in these Pilot Program cities and counties has no idea of these machinations and the costs involved, because the entire fiasco is being driven by a few well connected businessmen, some disgruntled waterfront homeowners, and a few others. If these expensive and controversial projects were presented to the voters I am sure they would be soundly rejected, but they won't be. Instead those pushing these laws continue to ram them through despite vocal and strong opposition from boaters, who will be the ones impacted.

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