What is a mooring field?
A mooring field is an area where boaters may anchor utilizing an organized and permanent mooring system affixed to the bottom of the waterway for specified periods of time. This may include short term anchoring of vessels to semi-permanent for live-aboard vessels. The mooring field area is a defined boundary that is legally regulated and complies with state, federal, and local laws.
Why create a mooring field?
Currently, under Florida law, and with no existing mooring field within the Bimini Basin, there is no legal way to regulate existing boat anchoring within the basin. An established mooring field will allow the City to regulate boat anchoring within the mooring field once adopted and permitted through various agencies.
Example mooring fields:
- Fort Myers Beach
- Fort Myers
- Key West
- Marathon Boot Key
- Punta Gorda
- Vero Beach
Principles of mooring fields:
There are two key principles that should be kept in mind throughout the process of establishing a mooring field:
Principles of Anchoring
- Boats are required to anchor such that they are not harming any other vessels, damaging property or inuring people, or preventing access to boats or property.
- Boats should not anchor in sea grass or coral areas due to the potential damage anchors can do to these habitats.
- Boats should be able to get underway within a reasonable amount of time.
- Safety of the crew and boat is a key concern.
Principles of Harbor Management
- A harbor management plan should be created when establishing a mooring field, and should be based on objective data obtained by inventories of natural and cultural resources.
- Harbor management plans should be based on consensus.
- A local board should be created that includes boaters in order to create the local harbor management plan if one does not exist.
- A Harbormaster should be identified.
- The management plan should focus on providing adequate space via moorings both for transient boaters and for safe shelter during storm events.
- The management plan should provide for a dinghy dock and on-shore facilities for boaters.
- The management plan should provide for signage.
- The board should inquire into funding mechanisms for signs, moorings, improvements and amenities (dinghy dock, showers, laundry facilities, etc.)
- Try to get Special Anchorage Designation.
- Create a dispute resolution mechanism.
- Obtain the right to use the submerged lands.
Legal steps required when creating a mooring field:
There are a number of requirements prior to establishing a mooring field, including
- Applicants (city) required to confirm ownership of submerged lands (land below the water body), and confirm the relevant political jurisdiction
- Review Local Government Comprehensive Plans to determine whether a mooring field will be consistent with the plan
- Initiate a draft proposed ordinance or resolution
- Select administration options (government/municipal, concession, not-for-profit organization)
- Obtain required authorizations
- Submerged lands lease
- Environmental Resource Permit - Department of Environmental Protection
- Boating Restricted Area - Florida Wildlife Commission
- Obstruction to Navigation - Section 10 - Rivers & Harbors Act (United States Army Corps of Engineers)
- Speical Anchorage Area Designation - US Coast Gaurd
- Resource Agency Consultations
- Fish and Wildlife Service
- Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Others as may be needed
Mooring fields are highly regulated at the state level to ensure public safety and environmental protection is maintained.