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Pilot program aims to prevent derelict vessels on St. Pete's waterways | Environment

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Pilot program aims to prevent derelict vessels on St. Pete's waterways
Pilot program aims to prevent derelict vessels on St. Pete's waterways

St. Petersburg, Florida – The City Council voted unanimously to approve an Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program Draft Ordinance at their March 1 meeting.

The draft ordinance grew from a 2009 Florida Legislature directive to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FFWCC") to establish the pilot programs.

The City of St. Petersburg was selected as one of five communities to participate in the pilot program. The other communities include City of St. Augustine, City of Sarasota, Monroe County/Key West/Marathon, and Martin County/City of Stuart.

The goals of the program are to develop and test policies and regulatory regimes that promote the establishment and use of properly permitted mooring fields, promote public access to Florida waters, enhance navigational safety, protect maritime infrastructure, protect the marine environment, and to deter improperly stored, abandoned, hazardous or derelict vessels.

The draft ordinance has to be approved by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) before it can be adopted.

This ordinance is primarily preventive and aims to prohibit hazardous vessels from anchoring in the City’s waterways. 

During the presentation to Council, specific local Issues were outlined as:

  • Poorly maintained vessels left for storage will eventually become derelict
  • Derelict vessels are hazardous to the environment and to marine life
  • Derelict vessels are costly to remove
  • Unattended vessels are frequently targets of theft or vandalism
  • Unattended vessels frequently become magnets for transients (homelessness).
  • Neglected vessels become “Visual Pollution"
  • Neglected vessels frequently become navigational hazards

Current procedures for derelict vessels were described as lengthy requiring many investigative hours and, even with this due diligence, building a prosecutable case is difficult.  The current procedures lead to a high rate of recidivism.

Reimbursement for removal expenses reimbursement is even less successful so prevention is viewed as the solution.

Hazardous vessels were described as having one or more of the following problems:

  • Inability to operate or navigate without another vessel
  • Excessive marine growth
  • Interior is exposed to weather
  • Taking on water with the no ability to dewater itself
  • Leaking contaminant into the water
  • In danger of breaking loose from anchor
  • Doesn’t meet proper registration requirements
  • Doesn’t meet lighting requirements
  • In violation of Marine Sanitation Devices

The ordinance also restricts anchoring within 200 feet of any publicly owned boat ramp or any publicly and privately owned marina. Anchoring in Bayboro Harbor is limited to 72 hours during a 30-day time period.

Additionally, the ordinance also prohibits anchoring in the Port of St. Petersburg, Central Yacht Basin, South Yacht Basin and anchoring in any manner that would be a navigational hazard or interfere with another vessel.  The recently opened North Yacht Basin will be promoted as a safe and manageable alternative to anchoring in the prohibited areas.

These measures are expected to help protect the marine environment, such as, the sea grass and manatees and the extensive maritime infrastructure, such as, the City marina and St. Petersburg Yacht Club marina, while promoting public access to the water through the Sailing Center.  The Center teaches sailing skills to over 300 kids and 200 adults annually. The draft ordinance provides for temporary anchoring in the restricted and prohibited areas for a safe harbor or a special event designated by the City.

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