Florida Keys News
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Mooring rules face more objections
Much-delayed vote on regulations rescheduled for May 16

Monroe County's attempt to regulate boats moored or anchored outside of managed areas is facing more obstacles.

The latest objections have come from the Navy and the Coast Guard Auxiliary, but for different reasons.

Auxiliary officials last week told the county the group cannot conduct vessel safety inspections to determine if boats are seaworthy, as the county had hoped.

"Vessel safety exams are voluntary for a boat owner to participate," wrote Jeff Bronsing, Division 13 Coast Guard Auxiliary commander. "Therefore, we will not be participating in this program with Monroe County."

In lieu of the auxiliary, that task would fall on officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The Navy told the County Commission at its April meeting that it opposes having the rules apply in Boca Chica Basin off Stock Island, saying it would legitimize mooring or anchoring in an undesirable area. The Navy doesn't want any homes or vessels in areas where there is loud jet noise or the possibility of damage from a jet crash. Navy Business Manager Ron Demes even proposed making Boca Chica Basin a no-anchor zone, which the county is now considering.

"We don't want to encourage people to live in the accident potential zone," Demes said.

The County Commission is expected to vote on the proposed rules, which the county planning staff is tweaking -- once again -- at its May 16 meeting.

The county's attempt to regulate non-managed mooring and anchoring fields has been delayed several times since 2009, mostly because of resistance from the live-aboard and cruising communities. Each time the County Commission has been scheduled to vote on new rules, a new argument against approving them arises.

The rules would be temporary, in effect through 2014, at which time the FWC would review them to determine whether to ask the state Legislature to make them permanent.

The state agency wants to give local governments more control over live-aboard and cruising vessels, which technically are moored or anchored on state bay bottom. The FWC is concerned about derelict and abandoned vessels, pollution and water quality.

The rules proposed for the Key West Harbor, Boca Chica Basin off Stock Island and Sunset Key off Key Largo would ban non-motorized floating structures, requiring proof of regular sewage pump-out and tagging -- and eventually removing -- vessels at risk of sinking.

The rules would also set up no-anchoring buffer zones around managed mooring fields in Key West and Marathon.

tohara@keysnews.com

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