Florida League of Cities

Vessels/Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Watch) – PASSED 

CS/CS/SB 494 (Hutson) revises laws administered by the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other law enforcement bodies. Among other things, the bill modifies current law provisions relating to derelict, at-risk and abandoned vessels. It specifies that a vessel is at risk of becoming derelict if it is tied to an unlawful or unpermitted mooring or other structure. It outlines the circumstances in which law enforcement may destroy or dispose of a vessel, and it adds vessels declared a public nuisance to the definition of “abandoned property.” It clarifies that the additional time given for an owner to remove a derelict vessel or to repair the vessel in the event of an accident or event does not apply if the vessel was already derelict at the time of the accident or event. The bill reorganizes current law provisions authorizing FWC to establish a program to provide grants to local governments for removal, storage, destruction, and disposal of derelict vessels and vessels declared a public nuisance. It directs FWC to adopt rules for local governments to submit grant applications and criteria for allocating available funds. The grant award criteria must consider, among other things, the number of derelict vessels within the applicant’s jurisdiction, the threat posed by such vessels to health and safety, the environment, navigation, or aesthetics, and the degree of commitment of the local government to maintain waters free of derelict vessels and to seek legal action against those who abandon vessels. The bill specifies that a certificate of title may not be issued for a public nuisance vessel, and it adds public nuisance vessels to the definition of abandoned property. In addition, the bill provides that a local government cannot create a public bathing beach or swim area in the marked channel of the Florida Intracoastal Waterway or within 100 feet of the marked channel. CS/CS/SB 494 passed the Senate (39-0) and the House (116-0) and is awaiting action by the Governor. (Branch)