Travis Hutson, Tyler Sirois tout new legislation dealing with derelict boat problem
Image via FWC.

DIVERDOWNFLAG_FWC
Lawmakers included $50 million to help remove those boats from the water.

Republican lawmakers are touting their work on a measure aimed at clamping down on derelict boats in Florida’s waterways.

During the final week of the 2021 Session, the Legislature approved a bill (SB 1086) addressing the issue, among other provisions. Republican Sen. Travis Huston sponsored that measure. GOP Rep. Tyler Sirois backed the House companion bill (HB 639).

“Derelict and abandoned vessels are a real problem in Brevard County and across our state,” Sirois said in a Tuesday statement promoting the measure, which must still be signed by the Governor.

“This legislation will provide Florida Fish and Wildlife and our law enforcement partners the tools to intervene before these vessels sink — carrying fuel, sewage, and fiberglass to the bottom of the river. During a storm event these vessels can cause severe damage to docks, seawalls, and other structures.”

Lawmakers included $50 million for programs to help remove those boats from the water. It also establishes a 21-day notification and hearing process where owners are notified that a vessel may be removed. Owners seeking to turn in those boats prior to remove will be able to dodge a penalty from the state.

The legislation sparked a back-and-forth among South Florida lawmakers regarding a provision on vessel exclusion zones. Hutson’s bill states those zones may not be marked off by ropes. Vessel exclusion can help protect swimmers by marking off areas where boats are not supposed to travel.

Hutson said he heard input from some South Florida lawmakers who backed the change, arguing those ropes may not always be visible and can cause problems for boats which accidentally clip them.

Other constituents in the region were less amenable to the change. At particular issue are permits already in motion aiming to rope off certain areas in South Florida, such as Islamorada. Some stakeholders worried those permit applications — which may include the use of rope barriers — may be held up due to the change.

But Huston told Florida Politics he spoke to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Protections and was told those permits will not be affected.

“I believe the issues are all worked out. That’s my understanding,” Hutson said. “The big concern has been whether, because this becomes statute, it makes null and void permits that are being put in place. And the answer back to me from the agencies is, ‘Not it doesn’t.’ This shouldn’t stop them.”

The legislation also bans the discharge of marine sewage in 42 aquatic preserves throughout the state — including parts of the Indian River Lagoon.

“This is another box to check in our effort to restore the Indian River Lagoon,” Sirois added. “It doesn’t make sense to invest taxpayer dollars in septic to sewer conversions but allow boats to release sewage into the estuary.”

Added Huston, “Senate Bill 1086 is a great bill that’s going to help keep our waterways safe and clean.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].



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