Letter: Update for port observers

Jay Bliss, USCG lic. captain
St Augustine Port and Waterway Commissioner – Seat 5

Dear Editor and Port Observers,

The Summer Haven River project awaits that group’s decision who is going to sponsor their cause. Port is ready to provide limited funding. We approved $15K for the Sheriff’s dept for overtime on the water. The County and USACE (Army Corps of Engineers) have lined up the permitting with DEP for the $20M beach re-nourishment/inlet channel dredging project. Your Port is the local sponsor. The dredging/re-nourishing should be done before the start of turtle nesting season May 1 2012.

St.Johns Parks and Rec estimates our half of a floating dock at Vilano to access by water the charms of Vilano and the new Publix will be $150 about. Comm. Rippe would like to see private money invested also in that. We’ll see what corporate sponsors we/he can gain. That floating dock will be 150 feet long, N-S oriented off the present fishing pier at Vilano.

This Comm. advocated a monthly monitoring of inlet channel depths so that the pre-dawn groundings of fishing boats last year at this time in the El Pescador tournament don’t reoccur. Those were experienced captains aground within the marked channel. This year the nor’easter that churned the channel didn’t cause any shoaling to affect the tournament out of Comachee Yacht Basin. We should be alert to those shoals that perhaps take a few years to build, but are devastating when they wreak havoc. There are liabilities to Port if our monitor numbers are wrong and someone goes aground; liabilities if we don’t have numbers and someone goes aground.

FWC Lt. Zukowski spoke of hazards in the Inlet. LCDR R. Butts, second in command at USCG Jax, spoke of services provided already for inlet buoy maintenance, and cooperation forthcoming. Comm. Rippe advocated an inlet that would be clearly marked on charts (NOAA charts presently state that inlet changes too often, and buoys are changed, and so there’s no printed version). The goal: monitoring and regularly scheduled maintenance. The Port website features the USCG’s waterway aids to nav. survey. If you haven’t already, copy and paste and fill in and email USCG Jax. Your Port boaters will appreciate your input. Boaters accessing the inlet in early, late, nighttime hours could sure use a red lighted marker or two or three…. www.staugustineport.com

Comm. Benjamin will enjoy being a judge at the Regatta of Lights December 10, directed by the St.A Yacht Club. Port voted unanimously to approve VCommodore Dan Floryan’s request for $5000 to sponsor that popular Port event along with the VCB.

Comm. Rippe has learned the tall ship “Bounty” might want to visit Port in late April. Board was supportive; harbor depths (by then the channel should be dredged) and bridge span might forbid. More tall ships might be enticed, albeit our docking facilities are limited.

J.Piggott, General Services City, said further tweaks have been effected in the Pilot Program. This Commissioner sees a pretty harmonious port here and now, with perhaps two derelicts. Many boaters don’t appreciate further restrictions on anchoring, which is the major thrust of the city’s PP ordinances; there are liability waivers and insurance requirements that keep some boaters from signing on to a mooring. The moorings can be great, the services City provides are fine. Further Ordinances are sure to drive off business. How much, we don’t need to find out. I’ll send at later date City’s tweaked version of Ordinances we might face, and my observations. There’ll be a second reading with public comment sometime in December perhaps.

Port voted 3-2 to express to FWC approval of the Pilot Program. Comm. Rippe voted against because there were no particulars laid out and Port commission hasn’t been presented any version of the PP Ordinances.

Lt. Zukowski reports good fishing in the ICW.

We have a little over $1.5 M in the bank.

Jay Bliss
St. Augustine, FL

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by Jay Bliss

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