The state of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will host a public workshop Wednesday about anchoring and mooring.
Many boaters, local, state and national marine organizations and community representatives, including Marco Island Police Chief Roger Reinke, will attend the meeting.
The workshop begins 5:30 p.m. in the Lee County Board of Commission Chambers on the second floor in the old Lee County Courthouse at 2120 Main Street in Fort Myers.
The government Affairs Office of The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.), a national organization for boat owners with approximately 670,000 members, is asking members and boaters in Southwest Florida to attend Wednesday’s workshop.
The FWC is working with municipalities throughout the state to address anchoring issues. Officials will discuss potential solutions to issues surrounding the anchorage of vessels in state waters, including Marco Island.
The first workshop was held Feb. 13 in Marathon. Another workshop was held Tuesday in Tampa. Other workshops are scheduled in Destin, St. Augustine and Stuart.
An article in the March issue of the BoatU.S. Magazine reviews the anchoring and mooring controversy in Florida and Marco Island.
“It’s becoming quite a story,” said Elaine Dickinson, managing editor of the magazine.
The city council passed the ordinance on May 1 after citizens complained about a derelict boat being anchored for many days in the Marco River. Waterfront property owners also spoke out about boats that they said were anchoring too close to shore and dumping sewage overboard.
The ordinance prohibits vessels from anchoring within 300 feet of shore or a man-made structure for more than 12 hours.
Another regulation is that a vessel cannot anchor more than three days in the island’s waterways without proof that the boat has been pumped out.
Reinke helped craft the law. The marine division is responsible for enforcing it. No boaters were known to receive citations for breaking the law until January.
Local resident David Dumas told the Marco Eagle in January that he decided to challenge the ordinance. He was cited by a MIPD marine officer Jan. 19 and on Feb. 15 was issued a Notice To Appear in Collier County Court. The Notice To Appear states that Dumas violated the ordinance “for being moored for 12 hours within 300 feet next to a sea wall and State Route 951.”
A judge set a March 23 trial date at 1:30 p.m. in Collier County Court. Noted criminal defense attorney Donald P. Day of Berry, Day and McFee in Naples, will represent Dumas free of charge.
Marco Island City Manager Bill Moss said after the citation was issued that the city has the responsibility to enact policies and enforce laws approved and adopted by the city council.
“Their policies reflect the expectations of our community,” he said. “It is unfortunate that one or more people intentionally violate laws because they disagree with the vast majority of Marco Island citizens.”
Day said state statutes and constitutional obligations override any local or municipal ordinance.
“The Florida Constitution actually protects the citizens of the state of Florida and all waterways up to the high tide mark,” he said.
Day added that the controlling of those waterways is vested solely with the state and not local municipalities.
Boating groups, including the Sailing Association of Marco Island (SAMI), the local and statewide Standing Watch organizations and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, have threatened to take the city to court if a boater is cited for violating the ordinance.
“SAMI is spearheading this locally,” Carl Henning, husband of SAMI Commodore BJ Henning, said. “We are looking forward to fight this ordinance in court.”
Boaters and organizations say that the two regulations of the Marco ordinance are in conflict of Florida Statute 327.60 that prohibits local governments from regulating the anchoring of non-live-aboard vessels in navigation outside of such mooring fields.
The statute also states that local governments can enact and enforce regulations that prohibit or restrict the mooring or anchoring of floating structures or live-aboard vessels within their jurisdiction, or any vessels within marked boundaries of a mooring field, provided in state Statute 327.40.
The city of Marco Island doesn’t have permitted or marked mooring fields.
Day said there is another issue just as important as the ordinance being illegal. He noted that a possibility exists that no Marco Island government official consulted with Capt. Alan Richard, assistant general counsel for the FWC, before the ordinance was passed. Richard spearheaded the revision of the state statute that the Legislature passed during last year’s session.
“If they called him and the state said, ‘You can’t do this,’ then Marco Island has a really big problem and the city has some civil liability,” Day said.
Richard said it would be “officially” inappropriate for him to comment about Day’s statement before Dumas’ pending case is resolved.