During the Miami Boat Show, I stopped briefly at the Florida Open Water Society and heard an update on an issue that's been simmering in Florida for years. In short, several municipalities have been restricting anchoring rights in local waters, contrary to Federal law, which when combined with the loss of marinas to waterfront development has progressively narrowed the options Sunshine State boaters and visiting cruisers have for peaceful enjoyment of Florida's magnificent waterways. (As an aside, this link provides a really well-done visual guide to Florida waterways and California's as well!)

Along the docks in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Along the docks in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Boating won a victory with the passage of a state law in 2006 that restricted what the municipalities could do, but now that law is under attack in the legislature. Eric Dybing, president of Florida Open Water Society, just sent me this summary of the situation, and after reading it, if you have a stake in Florida boating, I encourage you to click through to the FOWS website to find out what action you can take.

Here's Eric's summary:
"The 2006 state law restricting municipalities from limiting anchoring on state waters is under attack in the 2009 legislative session. Since the 2006 law was passed cities have continued to enforce local restrictions in direct violation of State Law.  As result legal action was taken with a few of the municipalities and they lost these cases.

The same Municipalities are behind House Bill 1423. This bill has language that will return control over State Waters back to the same Municipalities that have refused to comply with State Law. The bill would allow Municipalities to create no boating zones by city ordinance. In addition it puts into place a series of test cities that if approved, would have the authority to enact Anchoring ordinances if they had a “test” mooring field in place. The bill leaves all the details and rules to be worked out later.

As an example, South Florida has lost two thousand boat slips to development over the past 24 months. On-water storage needs to be the future of Florida. “Test” mooring fields that are designed to enable the municipalities to restrict anchoring are not the answer. A statewide system of not-for-profit mooring fields is the answer.

Florida is quickly gaining the reputation as the most boater-unfriendly state on the eastern seaboard. Florida’s $18.4 billion marine industry is at risk. In these economic times, the last thing the state needs is to damage an industry of this magnitude.

All boaters need to band together and deliver the Florida legislature a message “remove these economically devastating anchoring restrictions from H.B. 1423” To learn more or join the fight visit Floridaopenwatersociety.org "

In addition to the press release the link above will direct you to, I recommend reading the Legislation and Myths pages on the FOWS website.

John Burnham