Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stuart Screws Boaters in Manatee Pocket

Sorry to be so blunt, but there's no other way to put it. Stuart's initial meeting did not reference Manatee Pocket as an area to be included in the Pilot Program ordinance, at least not at the first meeting. But at the poorly attended second meeting, local politicians snuck Manatee Pocket into the ordinance area (see the Waterway Guide report at the end of this post. Please note, I am one of Waterway Guide's Cruising Editors).
For those of you not familiar with Manatee Pocket, it's quite close to the ICW, and very handy to a variety of services and recreation, restaurants and marinas. It's also less than 600 feet across at any given point. The proposed ordinance states that no anchoring is permitted within 300 feet of any maritime infrastructure - that would be docks, marinas, etc. and, I am presuming, docks includes private docks at homes. I've asked a maritime attorney in Stuart for an opinion on this and I'll also ask the city's attorney running this charade - who told me last week that this might happen.*
It's an absolute certainty that the prime anchoring area at the end of Manatee Pocket (and a personal favourite of mine) is finished. It's not 300 feet wide and there are a variety of marinas, a dinghy dock (which will now be entirely useless, wont' it?) and various restaurants and other facilities with docks.
So, once again, boaters are being screwed over by the municipalities taking part in the Pilot Program. Where is Vince Sabilla when we need him?

* The maritime attorney in Stuart has advised me that 'maritime infrastructure' is "...any equipment or facilities required or used for the activity". So, that would include private docks as I thought. Remember, you read it first here.


Martin County Approves Anchoring/Mooring Ordinance

Reported By:Waterway Guide  Staff

Martin County has approved an ordinance regarding anchoring and mooring in areas around Stuart, Jensen Beach, Rio, and Manatee Pocket. The City of Stuart will now take up the matter before the ordinance is put before the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC).
The County Commission Meeting Tuesday was not particularly well attended, but six people made public comments about the draft ordinance.
County Director of Growth Management, Nicki van Vonno introduced the FFWCC pilot program, and Senior Asst. County Attorney Krista Storey spoke to the details of the ordinance for the Stuart waterfront and Jensen Beach. The inclusion of Manatee Pocket was discussed and was added later to the final ordinance, as was the Rio anchorage across the St. Lucie River from Stuart.
The ordinance promotes the establishment and use of mooring fields, and prohibits anchoring within 300 feet of mooring fields or maritime infrastructure. In order to deter improperly stored, abandoned, or derelict vessels, the ordinance also requires that all anchored vessels demonstrate compliance with operational, safety, and sanitation requirements.  Anchoring within 1000 feet of the shore in areas of Jensen Beach is also prohibited.
Enforcement options were discussed, especially per enforcement of sanitation rules for non-cruising, liveaboard boats, suggesting that decals or burgees could be used to identify compliant vessels.
During the public comment period, Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society spoke to the protection of the sea grass beds, regardless of the boundaries, stating that if these regulations help with enforcement of the environmental laws already on the books, he is in favor of the ordinance.
Jody Foster spoke in opposition:  "I don't think the ordinance addresses the objectives of the Pilot Program" [access to water, navigational safety, and marine infrastructure]. "What you're talking about is prohibiting people from parking in certain parking lots...and they will just be anchoring somewhere else."  She spoke in favor of the Jensen Beach mooring field.
Business owner Valerie Jones owns waterfront property and a small marina: "If the laws on the books were enforced, the problems would be substantially reduced," and the problem is the derelict boats abandoned or occupied by indigent people, many of which were given away by marinas who don't want to pay for their disposal. "They are more of a problem for the legitimate cruisers than they are for us."
Dr. Thomas Fullman spoke against the Jensen Beach mooring field, questioning why 56 moorings are being built when no more than 26 boats are ever anchored in the area.
The last public comment was from Craig Woll: "Any consideration of mooring fields without including Manatee Pocket is foolish. It's the only well protected anchorage in the county."
The approved ordinance is available for download here, and the associated maps will be available for download soon at

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