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Abandoned Boat Law Heads to State for Approval

On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council unanimously passed a draft ordinance to establish rules regulating anchored and derelict vessels in St. Petersburg. The ordinance now goes to the FWC for approval.

A draft ordinance aiming to prevent vessels from becoming derelict and abandoned in St. Petersburg waters has unanimously been passed by the St. Petersburg City Council. 

The ordinance, which was approved Thursday, now heads to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for final approval. 

David Metz, Downtown Enterprise Facilities, said the city has worked closely with the Conservation Commission to develop the ordinance. He said the ordinance is a prevention tool. 

"We wanted to give the (police) marine unit (an ordinance) to really be preemptive with derelicts and abandoned boats," Metz said. "It's a balanced approach. Intercede before it becomes a problem."

St. Petersburg has been chosen as a pilot city for a state mooring field program. The city has been given the flexibility to write its own ordinance on mooring fields, which are currently regulated by the state and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Aiming to prevent abandoned and sinking boats, the ordinance would allow the city to take steps to cite and remove a vessel before it become derelict. Currently, it could take months, even years, for vessels to be removed due to state regulations. 

Council member Steve Kornell said this ordinance just makes sense for St. Pete. 

"If we can give staff extra tools that will help them do their job better, we should do it," Kornell said at Thursday's meeting. 

“We are a waterfront community,” Kornell said in a January interview with Patch. “When people can just abandon their boats and leave them there, and it takes a year or two years to get them removed, that’s a problem. We now have a chance to do something about it.”

Metz said that the city has held community meetings to not only get public feedback, but also to ensure boaters that they are not trying to restrict legal boating and anchoring in Tampa Bay and St. Pete area waters. 

Proposed Anchoring Regulations 

  • No vessel shall anchor within 200 feet of any publicly or privately owned marina
  • No vessel shall anchor within 200 feet of a publicly owned boat ramp
  • No vessel shall anchor in Bayboro Harbor for more than 72 hours within a 30-day period. 
  • No vessel shall anchor in any area that would be a navigational hazard to other boaters
  • No vessel shall anchor in the Port of St. Petersburg
  • No vessel shall anchor in the Central Yacht Basin
  • No vessel shall anchor in the South Yacht Basin

The city said the Conservation Commission could make minor changes but because the ordinance was developed with constant coordination with the agency the city does not expect many holdups. The final oridinance will be back before the council in early May with the Conservation Commission's changes. 

The pilot program is scheduled to sunset July 1, 2014, at which time all local ordinances enacted will expire and will be inoperative and unenforceable, unless the Florida State Legislature reenacts the program. The five locations selected by the Wildlife Commission to participate in the pilot program are: Monroe County (Marathon/Key West), St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Stuart County.

Chris Brudy March 02, 2012 at 01:42 PM
This absolutely stinks and will hurt people anchoring perfectly good and picturesque boats along our waterfronts. I don't like wrecks, but the ordinance should be written with actually defunct boats in mind, and should leave the anchored but still viable boats alone. Disgusting invasion of rights....
Peter J Dunlay March 02, 2012 at 03:33 PM
We have already been through this. The City has been told by the USCG that they don't have the right to inhibit anchorage in areas designated under Federal Law as such. This will no doubt end up in Court, again, at the expense of the taxpayers.
Aground March 05, 2012 at 05:53 PM
This law will just chase away legitimate tourist boaters while doing nothing to prevent derelicts. Why don't they want my money? I will go where I can anchor my boat without hassles. You can't anchor for than 72 hours per month? So you don't want people coming to town more than one weekend per month?

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