Florida Keys News
Monday, January 6, 2014
FWC wants 3 more years to assess new pump-out rules

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has asked the state legislature for a three-yeasr extension to a pilot mooring field regulation program.

The FWC Pilot Mooring Field Program, which established test rules in five communities across the state including Monroe County, is set to expire in July.

On Tuesday, the FWC sent the governor's office and state legislators an annual report, which included its recommendation on extending the pilot program until 2017, according to FWC Capt. Tom Shipp.

"We have not been able to fully test the program's effectiveness," Shipp told The Citizen. "I think it is having an effect."

The state legislature, at the FWC's request, established the mooring field program in 2009, but most of the areas, including Monroe County, did not implement it until 2012.

"The creation, approval and implementation of the local ordinances was a much more lengthy process than anticipated, and two of the five program areas have only recently been able to implement their ordinance," FWC's recommendation states. "The requirement for the FWC Commission (board) to approve each ordinance also increased scrutiny of the ordinances and extended the timeline for local government adoption. These facts were contributing factors to what ended up being a more lengthy process than that which may be considered typical for local government action."

Monroe County's Marine Resources Division Director Rich Jones, who has overseen the implementation of the program locally, called the extension of the program "a positive step."

"It is a little early in the process to conjecture, but it does appear the FWC staff recommendation is a good thing," Jones said.

The state legislature will have to pass a bill to extend the program, Shipp said.

The program sets up a series of test rules designed to encourage boaters to pump out sewage and maintain their vessels so they won't deteriorate to a point at which the FWC and local government agencies have to pay to have the vessels removed.

Prior to the program being implemented, Monroe County spent more than $250,000 a year removing derelict vessels.

Subject to the test rules are boaters in mooring fields in Key West Harbor, Cow Key Channel off Stock Island, Boca Chica Basin between Stock Island and Boca Chica Key, Boot Key Harbor in Marathon and Sunset Cove in Key Largo.

The pilot rules include requiring pump-out of sewage and citing vessel owners if their boats become derelict. At the same time, the Monroe County government expanded its pump-out services and made them free to the public.

tohara@keysnews.com

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