Florida anchoring ban bill approved by Governor

Region: General
Date Reported: Mar 24, 2016
Reported By: Mike Ahart, Waterway Guide News Editor
Source: Florida Assembly

Florida legislation that would ban overnight anchoring in several areas popular with cruising boaters – and may set a precedent for other banned areas – was approved by Governor Scott today (Mar. 24, 2016). Starting July 1, 2016, it will be illegal to anchor at any time during the period between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise in the following public waterways, with some exceptions:

•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 relatedWaterwayGuide.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.)

The exceptions:

•If the vessel suffers a mechanical failure that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or the persons onboard unless the vessel anchors. The vessel may anchor for 3 business days or until the vessel is repaired, whichever occurs first.

•If imminent or existing weather conditions in the vicinity of the vessel pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or the persons onboard unless the vessel anchors. The vessel may anchor until weather conditions no longer pose such risk. During a hurricane or tropical storm, weather conditions are deemed to no longer pose 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 other special events, including, but not limited to, public music performances, local government waterfront activities, or fireworks displays. A vessel may anchor for the lesser of the duration of the special event or 3 days.

•Vessels owned or operated by a governmental entity for law enforcement, firefighting, military, or rescue purposes.

•Construction or dredging vessels on an active job site.

•Vessels actively engaged in commercial fishing.

•Vessels engaged in recreational fishing if the persons onboard are actively tending hook and line fishing gear or nets.

The bill provides that « 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. »

The provisions of this law would sunset if and when new legislation is enacted as a result of the recommendations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program. A report is due to be submitted to the Florida legislature by January 2017.

See HB-CS1051 full text.