Bills restrict anchoring on Middle River, offer safety discount March 24, 2016

A new bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott will put most of Fort Lauderdale’s Middle River off-limits to boaters seeking overnight anchorages.

The legislation prohibits most overnight stays on the river from Northeast 21st Court to the Intracoastal Waterway. That includes a popular, wide stretch south of Sunrise Boulevard that can have a dozen to two dozen boats anchored there during peak periods, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The legislation, which takes effect July 1, imposes a similar ban in three Biscayne Bay locations in Miami-Dade County as well: Between Rivo Alto and De Lido islands, between San Marino and San Marco islands, and between San Marco and Biscayne islands.

The anchoring prohibition extends from a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise.

Bills that would offer boaters a registration discount for buying safety equipment and redefine careless boating also are ready to drop anchor on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk, the News Service of Florida reported.

The first (HB 427) would provide a discount of about 12 percent on annual vessel-registration fees next year if boaters show they have purchased and registered emergency locator devices.

Under the proposal, discounts would be given to boaters who have or buy emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) devices. The devices typically cost between $200 and $1,500. To be activated, a device must be registered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The second measure (HB 703) would revise a state law about carelessly operating vessels. It would redefine language to make it a violation only if the actions threaten “another person outside the vessel.”

Currently, boaters must operate in a manner that doesn’t endanger “any person,” which includes people inside vessels.

The measure also lessens the ability of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers, county deputies and municipal police officers to use the pretext of conducting safety inspections to stop and search boats if the vessels display commission safety-inspection decals.

The proposal wouldn’t prohibit officers from stopping boats when there is reasonable suspicion or probable cause that violations have occurred, such as over-harvesting lobster or fishing out of season.

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