Squatting boaters pose a safety threat in Manatee River

jtate@bradenton.comJune 14, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Anchored boats sitting in Bradenton waters like lame ducks can cause a safety hazard and property damage, Bradenton residents complained at a recent city council meeting.

J. Clifford Curley told City Council regulations were needed.

"They are storing boats on the city's waters," said Curley. "Some have been there for eight to 10 months."

His neighbor, Edward Cahill, said safety and possible property damage is the main concern.

"We are worried about the assets in our homes," said Cahill.

The residents in waterfront properties on Point Pleasant Avenue West have environmental concerns, Curley said. People living on these vessels may not be properly dumping their waste.

Bradenton Councilman Patrick Roff asked City Attorney William Lisch what could be done. Lisch said the city's hand were tied by the state's Rights of Navigation law, which prohibits local governments from regulating anchoring other than live-aboard vessels outside marked mooring field boundaries.

Roff said something must be done to regulate the anchoring boats.

"We'll continue to have illegal campers staying there and using services and not paying taxes," said Roff.

He said he will consult with the ManaSota League of Cities and with state Legislature in an attempt to solve the problem.

Curley and Cahill suggested the city enroll in Florida's temporary pilot mooring program, which encourages establishing more public mooring fields to promote public access to waterways and deter improperly stored vessels.

Mayor Wayne Poston said that solution will not solve the problem. Renegade boaters may not pay a rental fee to dock at a city mooring field and continue to anchor where they please.

"When you do the critical analysis, it's not really that helpful," said Poston, who plans to consult with the city attorney on the issue.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant agreed mooring areas are not effective and said anchoring boats also concern Palmetto residents. Bryant said Palmetto residents are more concerned with the environmental issues.

"The problem is they remain there and they are not properly dumping or emptying tanks," said Bryant.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key has been asked to help work out a possible solution. T.J. Tatum, Buchanan's press secretary, said they contacted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on the city's behalf but they could not intervene in a local issue.

In Manatee County, anchored boats are not a prevalent issue. Public Information Officer Nick Azzara, said the Natural Resources Department has no record of recent complaints.

Cahill and Curley, meanwhile, fear a turbulent hurricane season can cause improperly anchored boats to severely damage nearby properties.

"We have got to find a way not to have these boats where people live and have a mooring area near the Riverwalk so boats like this can go over there," said Curley.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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