The anchoring and mooring of vessels on waterways in this State is directly regulated by those statutory provisions set forth in Chapter 327 of the Florida Statutes, which is titled and identified as "Vessel Safety." Section 327.60(2}(f) of the Florida Statutes, expressly prohibits counties and municipalities from enacting, continuing in effect, or enforcing any ordinance or local regulation pertaining to the anchoring of vessels that are located outside the marked boundaries of a permitted mooring field. While neither Florida statutory law nor administrative regulations provide a definition for a mooring field, the general consensus is that a mooring field should be identified as a designated area on the water that has strategically placed permanent anchorage to which vessels may safely tie-up and swing with the tide and wind without impacting other boats in the area.
In September 2019, the City retained the consulting team of E-Sciences, Incorporated to evaluate the steps necessary to establish a managed mooring field and to guide the City as to the regulatory permitting requirements. Their analysis included exploring the physical extent of a viable area west of Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, provide example layout concepts based on common vessel sizes and physical extents, present possible options for phased expansions, investigate requirements for upland support facilities and explore management options.
Regulated mooring fields have many benefits, including the following:
· Deter improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels,
· Increase general public safety by identifying mooring field users,
· Enhance navigational safety,
· Protect the marine environment and seagrass beds from anchor dragging,
· Improve water quality by requiring sewage pump-out and preventing polluting discharges,
· Enrich the local economy by attracting customers to the area and providing a source of revenue for the City, and
· Ensure appropriate public access to waters of the State.
A public meeting was held in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood on February 11 to present the study and obtain feedback. Staff also presented and obtained feedback from the West Avenue Neighborhood Association, Marine and Waterfront Protection Authority, and representatives from the Sunset Harbour Yacht Club. Major concerns from the public included location of upland facilities, operational considerations, shifting vessels from newly regulated area into unregulated areas, and impediments to navigation. The public in general was in support of creating a managed mooring area reduce environmental impacts to Biscayne Bay and establish a more orderly mooring area.
The consultants developed three conceptual layouts with two phases outlining an area of 50 slips with a mix of different sized vessels. The consultant developed the layout to maximize the number of mooring slips. Based on feedback from Miami Beach Marine Patrol, Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, and the Marine Authority Board there were concerns that there would be impact to navigation. During the design phase, the vessel layout will be further vetted to ensure navigation is maintained, including access to all waterfront property owners, Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, and boat ramps at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park. The establishment of formalized channels and buffers with proper markings would also be part of the mooring field design and permitting process.
A mooring field is required to include a support facility on land that incorporates a dinghy dock and sewage pump-out facility. Other amenities that are often included, but are not a regulatory requirement include bathrooms, showers, and laundry. Members of the Sunset Harbour neighborhood expressed concerns regarding providing bathrooms, showers, and laundry. If this project is to move forward, the Administration will need guidance as to what further amenities should be included on the upland.
Other concerns raised during the public outreach were related to specific operational components of a mooring field. If the Mayor and City Commission elect to move forward with establishing a mooring field, an ordinance or resolution would be created that establishes the mooring field and sets forth the operational including:
· length of time a vessel may remain at the mooring field;
· the establishment of fees, safety and insurance considerations;
· operational hours for noise and machinery;
· requirements relating to the display of signs;
· sanitation requirements; and
· provisions regarding fishing, swimming and other recreational activities.
The City can either choose to operate a mooring field itself, or contract with a private company or non-profit organization to oversee its operations. The City can either pay the management firm a fixed annual fee or establish a percentage of the revenue to be provided as compensation. Staffing required for the management mooring facility can be limited by utilizing mobile applications. The annual gross revenue for 50 slips is estimated to be approximately $250,000, using current mooring field rates in the Miami-Dade County area and assuming 70% occupancy with half daily and half monthly customers.
A preliminary option of probable cost was established to be on the order of $730,000 for design, permitting, and construction of the mooring field. The study also outlined potential funding opportunities that can help fund design and construction. It is estimated that external sources could fund between 70-80% of planning, design, permitting, and construction of a managed mooring field.
 The City does have limited authority to regulate live-aboard vessels and commercial vessels.