After more than a year of working on an ordinance to regulate abandoned boats in Tampa Bay and nearby waterways, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved St. Petersburg's proposed mooring field ordinance.
“The city of St. Petersburg’s ordinance addresses local issues related to anchoring and mooring in the area, such as navigational safety, protecting marine infrastructure, promoting public access and deterring improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section, in a news release. “It also specifies penalties for violating the regulations.”
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. Previously, the city said it could take months, even years, for vessels to be removed due to state regulations.
The Conservation Commission did make a slight adjustment to the anchoring law, which was that no vessel should anchor in Bayboro Harbor for more than 10 days out of any 30-day period. The city's original proposal would allow for three days in 30-day period.
City councilors will vote on the Conservation Commission's amendment to the ordinance before the law becomes official. The first reading of the new ordinance is set for May 17. A public hearing for the proposed mooring field law has been scheduled for June 7.
Approved 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 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
David Metz, Downtown Enterprise Facilities, told the city council on March 1 that 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 told the council. "It's a balanced approach. Intercede before it becomes a problem."
Council member Steve Kornell, who has been an advocate for the mooring field ordinance, said a new abandoned boat/anchoring law would help give city staff and police the tools they need to do their job.
“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.”
The goal of this pilot program, according to Conservation Commission, is to explore options for regulating the anchoring or mooring of non-live-aboard vessels outside the boundaries of public mooring fields.
Stuart/Martin County, St. Augustine; Marathon and Key West partnering with Monroe County and Sarasota have also been chosen to propose local mooring field ordinances. According to the Conservation Commission, it has already approved the ordinances for St. Augustine.
All ordinances adopted under the pilot program expire on July 1, 2014, unless re-enacted by the state legislature.