KEY LARGO -- Monroe County officials are inching closer to finding a permanent location to house live-aboard and transient boaters.
The county commission has put Buttonwood Sound at the forefront of the conversation to implement a 100-boat mooring area. Other locations being discussed include Jewfish Creek and Boca Chica Basin.
But such a project could have adverse impacts to nearby residents, as well as the bay bottom, according to concerned residents.
Members of the Upper Keys Sailing Club met last week to discuss the effects a mooring field would have on its operation.
Commodore Sarah Taylor said she would have liked to speak at the March 19 commission meeting had she known the item was going to be discussed. Taylor said the moorings would force the club to change some its routes and areas it sails.
"We're really concerned about the environment," she said. "I do not see room for 100 boats."
The sailing club, she said, almost considers the mooring proposal a slap in the face after it took extra precautions to protect seagrass when installing dockage. The area includes seagrass meadows that serve as nurseries to many fish and other creatures.
The mooring field also comes at the chagrin of Dottie Moses, who represents the Key Largo Federation of Homeowner Associations.
Moses says the county should start the project with 25 moorings instead of 100.
At last month's commission meeting in Marathon, Penny Cutt from Coastal Systems International presented a proposal calling Buttonwood Sound the best choice for a mooring field.
Cutt said a managed mooring field would be less harmful than the damage currently caused by boat anchors on the bay floor.
"We may have a difficult time given they are submerged over aquatic resources," Cutt acknowledged.
County officials want to create a partnership with the owner of Point of View R.V. Resort to serve as a hub for the live-aboards.
Boca Chica Basin in the Lower Keys has a higher concentration of boats, but the commission felt it would be too cumbersome to try to find onshore facilities to support a managed moorings. They deemed a longer term goal.
Currently, there is only a small area for boats to access land.
"It's the easiest thing to do quickly," Commissioner Heather Carruthers said if the board's decision about Buttonwood Sound.