Letter: Rather see enforcement of existing laws

Letter: Rather see enforcement of existing laws

Jay Bliss
Seat 5 Commissioner
St Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District

Dear Editor:

Monday at 5 pm in the Alcazar room, your City Commission will hold a second hearing on the 2011-10 ordinance.

You’ll find it in its entirety here:

http://www.staugustinegovernment.com/the-city/featured-stories-archive/documents/Ord2011-10_000.pdf

The FWC Pilot Program allows the ordinance.

Major boater objections came with a proposed 10-day anchoring limit, and with reduced areas to anchor in the City. FWC decreed 30 days limit acceptable, with easy provisions to make anchoring for cruisers whatever length they choose.

Cruisers will continue to use St Augustine as a stopover. It’s up to all of us, whatever ordinances are in place, to welcome them. Most cruisers will pick up a mooring and not be affected by 2011-10. Properly notifying Cruisers (and all boaters) of the laws unique to St Augustine is an issue. City maintains it can provide fair warnings, without penalties.

Live-aboards have been required to pay for a mooring since 2009. They may not anchor inside city limits.

Unoccupied boats will continue to anchor in our main harbor.

If 2011-10 is passed, they’ll have to make sure they’re 50 feet from a dock or a buoy or a marker. If it’s not passed, the prudent boater will probably exercise the same discretion.

We’re likely to see lawfully anchored the same 5-6 boats stored on the NE side of the Bridge of Lions, the beige (unoccupied) houseboat included, and others anchored elsewhere within city limits.

On the San Sebastian river, if 2011-10 is passed, there will be no boats likely to anchor there. Some 7 boats will be moved by their owners, perhaps adding to the anchorage S of the 312 outside of City limits, or anywhere in City limits so long as the boat is not anchored closer than 50 feet to any structure or marker.

In Salt Run, if 2011-10 is passed, some 8 boats (none of which are live-aboards) will anchor elsewhere, or perhaps their owners will find the money to use a City mooring. How these unoccupied boats might cause fecal coliform and affect the shellfish harvest is a mystery. Dept. of Aquaculture has not recorded any levels that approach harmful; creeks within Anastasia State Park have been noted higher, attributed to raccoons and other critters. Oysters continue to be harvested.

City will orchestrate in the months of February and August, a power run to the City marina of all boats anchored within city limits. This demonstration will assure City that boats stored in City limits are operational.

This Port District commissioner would rather see diligent and fair enforcement of 2009-38, laws that already are on the books.

http://www.staugustinegovernment.com/your_government/documents/OrdinanceNo2009-38-MooringFields.pdf

They stipulate prudent operation and anchoring for all boats, and empower City to tow any vessel that’s an immediate hazard to property or public safety.

Additional statutes 327.44 and 327.70 confirm City’s laws on the books and effectively cover the county.

The still-evolving Pilot Program could not potentially rain on our parade, and a headline on Tuesday “St Augustine Welcomes Boaters, No New Laws” would do wonders for our marine tourist business in the months and years ahead.

The difference in the approach:

2011-10 attempts to prevent the circumstances in which a boat might become a problem. 2009-38 established what’s to be done when a boat IS a problem.

2011-10 might be considered preventative, but putting all the circumstances into law is a never-ending task. Enforcing either will demand diligence, time, money, and record keeping. Keeping track of what boats did or didn’t power to the City marina, what boats slipped into county waters to avoid the trial; measuring boats at anchor for 50′ clearance to docks and buoys; gives the burden of paperwork and on-the-water monitoring and expense of time and money to 2011-10.

This subject is really about parking.

We have three mooring fields with 163 moorings. Our St Augustine Parking Garage now provides $1/day parking for residents, one-tenth of the regular fee. A similar opportunity for boats would relieve he anchor sprawl we now have.

No matter what law is in effect, attracting the 40 or so boats into the organization of the mooring fields would be a giant step forward. The meritorious goal to promote the use of mooring fields (also one of the goals of the Pilot Program) could readily be achieved with attractive pricing like that offered at the Parking Garage.

Your presence at the meeting, or your email to City Commissioners, is important.

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