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Residents express concerns about proposed Bimini mooring field

By Staff | Apr 3, 2018

While there are benefits to putting in a mooring field at Bimini Basin, on Tuesday at an open house at the Chester Street Resource Center to discuss such a field, residents had many more concerns, among them pollution and traffic in the water.

Residents had a chance to see the renderings of the proposed field, ask questions and provide input on what they would like to see.

But what was supposed to be a show-and-tell turned into a Q&A, with Mayor Joe Coviello and Councilmember John Gunter in attendance, but not providing input due to Sunshine Laws.

Jared Beck, an associate with Stantec, which is doing the planning on the field, said currently the basin is anarchy, with no regulation in place for boats.

“This creates the requirements for them, what they have to do regarding management, such as length of stay and noise ordinances,” Beck said. “Pump outs and fees would also be included.”

A mooring field is an area where boaters can anchor in the water for short- or long-term periods of time depending on if someone wants to spend the day or live aboard. The field would be regulated by the city and would comply with all laws.

Mooring fields have been established in many nearby areas, including Fort Myers Beach, Naples, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda.

The Bimini Basin field would be a maximum of 9.17 acres and nearly 400,000 square feet. The money for such a project came courtesy of a grant, for which the city has had on the top of its wish list.

Under Florida law, there is no mooring field within Bimini Basin and no way to regulate boat anchoring in the basin. A mooring field would allow the city to regulate anchoring as soon as an ordinance is adopted and is permitted through various agencies.

“Many cities are putting in ordinances as the first of multiple steps so they have some authority on what’s happening as far as boating,” Beck said.

Among the benefits these fields have include the prevention of derelict vessels, pollution control, habitat protection, basin management and oversight, increased revenues and tourism, navigational safety and efficiency in anchoring.

Those residents who came didn’t look at the upside. Some said pollution could increase unless there was a way to pump out the bilge inside the boat rather than dump it in the water.

Roger Jacobsen, harbormaster in Naples, gave everyone much to think about in regards to a field. A court ruling in 2007 in favor of a Marco Island boater has made it open season for free anchory.

Residents of the Sunnybrook Harbour Condominium Association made their thoughts known, saying they wanted no wake buoys displayed, no wet storage, reservations made in advance, all vessels registered, extra fees and time limits for live aboard boaters, time limits for transient boaters, pump out requirements and a limit on moorings to between 20 and 30 boats, depending on their size.

Another resident said he wanted the boats gone for the annual boat parade, a complaint the consultants had heard numerous times and said they would take under advisement.

There will be another informational hearing on May 1 at 4816 Chester St., along with a presentation to the CRA. The City Council will hold hearings on the field on Mondays, June 4 and June 11, where an ordinance will likely be voted on in time for the summer hiatus.

That’s the quickest step. The field would still have to pass on the state and federal level, which Beck said could take between 12 and 18 months.