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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Anchorage in news again in Bradenton Beach

The on-again, off-again anchorage issue in Anna Maria Sound off Bradenton Beach appears to be on - again.

About 20 people attended a meeting last week of city commissioners and officials from the University of Florida who have worked to create "boat parking lots" up and down the coast of Southwest Florida.

An impromptu mooring of boats has taken place south of the Bradenton Beach City Pier for the past decade or so. Problems have occurred between residents and boaters in the past, and the city began efforts several years ago to regulate the anchorage.

There were just a couple of problems: The city's boundaries end at the water's edge, making the boats a Manatee County problem, and even if the city had the jurisdictional authority to regulate the boats, it had no way to get to the anchorage.

Both obstacles have either been resolved or are well on their way to a solution though, according to Police Chief Sam Speciale.

At the meeting, he told the commission that an interlocal agreement with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office was in the works to have several Bradenton Beach police officers given complete deputy status, allowing them to regulate boaters in the anchorage. The city also has a police boat, compliments of a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District.

University of Florida Law School student Michael Kamprath explained that there were legal, technical and public policy issues that need to be addressed before an anchorage could be established.

Using models from Matanzas Pass near Fort Myers and elsewhere, Kamprath said jurisdictional issues first need to be resolved. He said the city also needs to determine if the anchorage is to be a municipal facility or turned over to a concessionaire to operate.

Other issues that need to be determined, he said, include length of stay for boats, if live-aboard boaters are to be allowed, any fees for use of the anchorage and environmental features of the area.

Much of the sound's bottom in the area of the anchorage was mapped in 2000 through the auspices of Sea Grant's John Stevely and the late Dr. Gus Antonini. That mapping showed the depths of the area, seagrass bed coverage and a "snapshot" of the 16 boats that moored there at the time.

Costs of establishing the anchorage at Matanzas Pass was about $250,000, with about 70 boats accommodated.

But before the sticker shock took hold of city commissioners, a much more modest proposal was offered.

Stan Zimmerman has been involved for several years in establishing an official anchorage at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron off City Island in Sarasota. He said the necessary permits had been submitted to the state for a cost of less than $6,000 through the efforts of a cadre of volunteers.

Zimmerman explained that seagrass beds are a major hurdle to overcome in the permitting process, since state officials do not allow any anchoring within those boundaries. He also said that it would be best for the city to apply for any permits and to request a fee-waived lease of the underwater property rather than attempting the much more costly bay-bottom purchase.

Vice Mayor Bill Shearon, who is the city liaison to the city pier and the fledgling anchorage, urged residents to form a committee to begin working on the issues of the anchorage field, a suggestion that was met with apparent enthusiasm by the attendees. A future meeting date has not been yet announced.