Anchoring Ordinance Weighs on Marco Island

Opposition to a new municipal law governing anchoring has put the the city of Marco Island, Florida in the center of a statewide debate

AtSeaMarcoIsland

A municipal anchoring ordinance that went into effect last May has two boaters in Marco Island, Florida, engaged in an act of marine civil disobedience.

On January 18, Marco Island residents David Dumas and Lee Oldershaw dropped the anchor of Dumas' 42-foot powerboat Kinship near shore in Smokehouse Bay and waited to be arrested for violating the Marco Island Waterways and Boating Safety Ordinance, which states, among other prohibitions, that no vessel may anchor within 300 feet of the shoreline.

Marco Island police promptly cited Dumas for violating the ordinance, and summoned him to court on February 15. Dumas, Oldershaw, and supporters in Standing Watch, Florida's largest boating advocacy group, claim that the municipal ordinance violates Florida Statute 327.60, a state law prohibiting local governments from regulating the anchoring of non-liveaboard vessels outside of designated mooring fields.

"The problem is that each municipal law attempts to override existing state law," says Jim Kalvin, president of the Standing Watch Florida board of directors. "The mosaic of municipal laws throughout Florida are not coordinated, consistent, or posted."

Kalvin points out that traveling boaters have no way of knowing what laws may be in effect from one anchorage to the next, and the resulting confusion can lead to fines or imprisonment. The citing of Dumas, he insists, will set a precedent throughout Florida.

"It will allow existing state law to govern navigable waterways as it was designed to do," says Kalvin. "Even the proponents of the Marco ordinance admitted in meeting after meeting that there was no existing problem to address when this law was created."

For more about this developing story, click here.