House Bill 639

Florida Keys residents who live on boats anchored outside of managed mooring fields may soon find themselves moving every three months.

A proposed bill making its way through the Florida Legislature and its various committees would designate Monroe County as an “anchoring limitation area within which a vessel may only be anchored in the same location for a maximum of 90 days,” states House Bill 639, a 78-page bill that also includes provisions for alcohol testing of boat operators, removal of derelict vessels and other regulations that would apply statewide. But Monroe County is the only area specified in the section that deals with a 90-day time limit for anchored vessels.

If passed, the new rule would not apply to vessels anchored in an approved and permitted mooring, but it would significantly affect boats outside Keys mooring fields, such as those that have long been anchored around Wisteria Island off Key West.

Several such residents gathered for a recent protest of HB 639, saying the new rule would exacerbate Monroe County’s affordable housing shortage. 

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the bill, including a determination of how far a vessel must move in order to fulfill the relocation requirement. 

“Five yards or five miles?” opponents have asked.

Others have said the bill is trying to target derelict and nuisance vessels, but that laws already exist for such issues, said Key West commercial fisherman “Lobster Lee” Starling.

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House Bill 639 does state that vessels may remain inside anchoring limitation areas longer if a mechanical failure poses a risk to the vessel or people on board; during imminent hazardous weather or an approaching hurricane.

House Bill 639 was introduced by state Rep. Tyler Sirois, who represents the area of Brevard County on Florida’s Space Coast. 

The bill is being considered by the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, State Affairs Committee and the Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee.

 

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