Lawmakers look to follow up on ‘derelict’ boat problem

Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Tyler Sirois also crusaded against derelict boats last Session.

After moving forward with a bill last Session cracking down on derelict boats, Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Tyler Sirois are back with legislation giving state officials additional tools to deal with the issue.

The new bills (SB 494, HB 323) allow the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or law enforcement agencies to declare a boat “at-risk” of becoming derelict if it is “tied to an unlawful or unpermitted mooring or other structure.”

The legislation also adds a provision clarifies a portion of state law which allows officials to set up zones within a spring to restrict boat speed and the mooring, beaching or grounding of boats. The new language states those zones may be set up whenever “substantial, competent evidence shows that demonstrable harm has been caused by vessel activity” in that spring.

Hutson and Sirois also crusaded against derelict boats last Session. That legislation aimed to give more resources to state officials to remove boats from the water, including a $50 million funding source.

In follow-up legislation ahead of the 2022 Session, Hutson and Sirois are looking to allow FWC to use issue grants to remove derelict vessels.

“The commission may establish a program to provide grants to local governments for the removal, storage, destruction, and disposal of derelict vessels from the waters of this state. This grant funding may also be used for the removal, storage, destruction, and disposal of vessels declared a public nuisance,” the bill reads.

The bill also allows FWC to establish a plan to tap into federal disaster funds to help remove derelict boats as well.

“Derelict and abandoned vessels are a real problem in Brevard County and across our state,” Sirois said following the 2021 Session. “During a storm event these vessels can cause severe damage to docks, seawalls, and other structures.”

The new measures filed would also bar public bathing beaches of swim areas from being set up “in whole or in part within the marked channel of the Florida Intracoastal Waterway or within 100 feet of any portion of the marked channel.”

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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