The City of St. Augustine has been developing a Harbor Management Plan for Matanzas Bay and Salt Run. After months of research and planning, a fourth draft of that plan was recently presented to the public at the fourth of a series of working group meetings. For further information on the meeting or on the Draft Harbor Management Plan itself, please call 904-825-1010.
Among the plan’s goals are a management system determining where boats may anchor safely, requiring that live-aboard vessels properly dispose of waste, addressing the issue of derelict boats, and ultimately encouraging responsible boating and increased public accessibility to the water.
One key element of the proposed plan is the establishment of mooring fields in Matanzas Bay and Salt Run. Currently, a boater may drop anchor for an unlimited amount of time in any location as long as the vessel is outside the ship’s channel often resulting in some using the bay for “boat storage.”
The mooring field issue has two sides as outlined in an executive summary prepared by city staff for the City Commission. In part, the summary states:
Some boaters do not believe that mooring fields are a good idea because it ‘regulates’ where they can drop anchor. They believe that the establishment of mooring fields infringes on their rights as boaters. On the flip side, there are some boaters who believe that mooring fields are good because they help promote good boating practices (forced to pump out, dispose of trash properly, etc.).
Advantages of a planned mooring field or managed anchorage over ad hoc anchoring include:
- Allows for boater registration.
- Local tourism boost for waterfronts.
- Can create a ‘quaint’ harbor setting for waterfront restaurants.
- Environmental protection: Moorings rely on anchor systems that are embedded into the bottom substrate and do not have heavy ground tackle dragging on the sea bed.
- Locate away from corals and seagrasses.
- Moorings help increase boat density. Creates planned boat storage rather than random storage.
- Safety (encourages sea-worthiness).
- Can generate revenue for waterfront projects
Managed anchorages or mooring fields generally require a lease from the Governor and Cabinet for use of sovereign submerged lands under the mooring field and an environmental resource permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the disturbance to those lands caused by the moorings. However, the situation in St. Augustine is different. By special law the city was given ownership of the sovereign submerged lands within its jurisdiction, thus, St. Augustine does not require a lease from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a mooring field.
The first working group meeting was held in January 2008. City staff made a brief presentation covering issues raised at the third meeting and answered questions. Most importantly, the meeting provided the public with the opportunity to offer input on the draft plan. A copy of the plan may be reviewed by viewing the Draft Harbor Management Plan (PDF). A copy of the map of the potential locations can be seen by reviewing the Mooring Field Potential Locations (PDF).