At its meeting Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Apalachicola, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) selected three sites for an anchoring and mooring pilot program. Two more will be chosen in April.
Following staff recommendations, Commissioners voted to select the cities of Sarasota and St. Petersburg and Monroe County as sites for the mooring field pilot program. A mooring field is a controlled area where boaters tie their vessels to a floating buoy, which is secured to the bottom of the waterway.
Under Florida statute, the FWC, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), must establish a pilot program regulating anchoring and mooring outside of marked public mooring fields.
“We hope the project promotes safe public access to Florida’s waters, protects the marine environment and deters improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways section.
By July 1, 2011, the FWC must have selected all locations for the pilot project. The requirements include two on the east coast of Florida, two on the west coast and one in Monroe County, so the remaining selections must be on the east coast.
The FWC staff began work on the program in October 2009, when it sent out letters of solicitation. Fourteen counties and municipalities responded with letters of intent to participate.
“Our staff worked with DEP to gather data to determine appropriate sites for the project,” Daugherty said.
They analyzed geographic characteristics of the area, services provided at the mooring field sites, usage fees and the average number of boats inside and outside of the mooring fields.
At its December meeting, the Boating Advisory Council, which makes recommendations to the FWC and the Department of Community Affairs regarding issues affecting the boating public, advised FWC staff to move forward with the site recommendations on the west coast and in Monroe County.
Wednesday, staff presented recommendations to the Commission on those recommended sites on the west coast and in Monroe County. Commissioners approved FWC staff-recommended sites and a request for more time to collect and analyze more data regarding anchoring and mooring on the east coast.
FWC staff will present the data to the Boating Advisory Council in March for recommendations, and then return at the April Commission meeting with suggestions for the two remaining east coast pilot sites. The Commission also directed staff to work with the city of Stuart in an attempt to be added as a third pilot program site.
Please visit MyFWC.com/Boating or call the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section at 850-488-5600 for more information.