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FLORIDA KEYS NEWS

04-30-2021 -- MOORING BILL- Florida Senate Bill 639

Restrictive Mooring Bill Passes

Full Text of Bill

This bill is 69 pages long and takes effect July 1, 2021. It concerns a number of subjects, including breath and other testing of drivers and boaters. It also concerns human-powered vessels within the Florida Intracoastal Waterway, operation of air boats, regulation of derelict vessels including non-criminal fines of vessels in danger of becoming derelict of $100, $250 and to $500 dollars, vessel exclusion zones and no discharge zones, and closing ocean areas temporarily for space launches. The relevant part designates Monroe County as a special mooring zone.

The relevant part begins on page 32:

935 (2)(a) Monroe County is designated as an anchoring 936 limitation area within which a vessel on waters of the state may 937 only be anchored in the same location for a maximum of 90 days. 938 The commission shall adopt rules to implement this subsection. 939 (b) The anchoring limitations in this subsection do not 940 apply to approved and permitted moorings or mooring fields. 941 (c) Notwithstanding the commission rules adopted pursuant 942 to this section, this section is not effective for Monroe County 943 until the county approves, permits, and opens new moorings for 944 public use, including at least 250 moorings within 1 mile of the 945 Key West Bight City Dock and at least 50 moorings within the Key 946 West Garrison Bight Mooring Field. Until such time, the 947 commission shall designate the area within 1 mile of the Key 948 West Bight City Dock as a priority for the investigation and 949 removal of derelict vessels.

Thus, until the county provides the moorings as stated above, the bill is not effective law, except that there will be more attention to the removal of derelict vessels within one mile of the West Garrison Bight Mooring Field.

OPINION: Originally the bill required that boats be moved 5 miles away every 90 days. This was the most aburd part of the bill and appears to have been removed. As a practical matter, this bill greatly expands the duties of FWC and does not appear to include any increased funding to pay for these increased duties. So how exactly is FWC going to keep track of hundreds of boats and where they are moored and in fact they are moved every 90 days? This does not seem practical in the least. I would guess they might respond to complaints, but that is about it.

Thus, as a practical matter, they cannot begin counting the 90 days until July 1, which means the effective date of the provision is not until October 1, 2021. However, the provision of the new mooring fields is certainly going to take longer than that. I would guess that nobody will have to worry about these provisions for at least a year. Keep in mind that the bill applies to the entire county, but the Key West centric way it is written would mean nothing can be done county-wide until the new Key West mooring fields are completed, plus 90 days.

In my view the fines for vessels in danger of becoming derelict, which applies state-wide is the biggest danger for live-aboards and it has not gotten any attention. These non-criminal fines will go a long way to eliminating boats before they become derelict. They require the boat to have a working propulsion system, working steering, no hull damage and other things. This could also lead to increased harrassment of moored boaters, although as I said above, I have no idea how effective the bill will be without substantially increased funding for FWC.

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