Below is a personal comment letter on a fast moving bill that seriously concerns you and all of Florida. If you enjoy using your vessel-you need to check out the bills, read this and send your own comments in on this bill-Fast! I have also included the contact information for the committees below.
Bobbi M. Walker
Port St. Joe, Florida 32456
Committee on Judiciary
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
April 11, 2007
Re: SB548 and HB 1069 Protection of Seagrasses
Dear Honorable Committee Members,
Although it certainly sounds like a lofty goal for our Senate to be looking at protecting sea grasses I do not feel that adequate research has been initiated to identify the number of Florida homeowners who will be negatively impacted by denying them access to their piers because they are not located on recognized channels, even though these homes have had this access for decades. Please consider the economic hardship and loss of value to those homes located in places like St. Joe Bay. Who would want to own a bay front home with a pier that is not accessible by boat? You have ignored the economic impact associated with the private sector, which will suffer the burden of economic loss.
Florida (2001) ranked #1 in the United States for overall economic impact of recreational fishing. This lucrative industry pumps approximately $7.5 Billion a year into our nations economy. It also supports almost 80,000 jobs. The bill clearly states how our boaters are increasing and yet you are willing to send boaters to other states?
The bill allows for civil penalties for the careless operation of a boat, outside of marked navigation channels, causing propeller scarring resulting in the destruction of seagrass plants in aquatic preserves. The vast majority of boat owners will not scar seagrass with intent or malice. They attempt to avoid where their props will hit bottom for fear of having to walk their boat for miles. Who will determine careless operation?
"Propeller scarring" means damage caused by the operation of a vessel in waters supporting seagrasses, resulting in the destruction of roots, shoots, or stems of seagrass plants, which causes denuding of vegetation in tracks of sediment commonly referred to as prop-scars or propeller scars.
What are you protecting and whom are you creating a burden for if you allow an over zealous law enforcement official to write tickets to an innocent boater who runs over a stem or shoot of seagrass?
You state that others have attempted publishing brochures and educating the public on this issue. I buy a fishing license every year and NEVER have I been given a brochure that educates me about the importance of seagrass. When I register my boat I don’t receive education either. Aren’t those the two most important instances where you come in contact with a boater on our Florida waters?
I understood from the bill that a Seagrass Working Group was assembled in 2004 and it included recreational representatives. My question is did these representatives frequent aquatic preserves while recreational fishing? What about the homeowner who will be impacted, were they included?
I urge you to reconsider your support of this bill that will cause negative impacts that will be felt throughout our State. Please consider that sometimes it’s important to put people first and show patience and time as you teach your constituents to be good stewards. I don’t feel that we have even given an adequate attempt at education before we are trying to make misdemeanor criminals out of our residents.
Bobbi M. Walker
Email and fax numbers
Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation Staff director Wayne Kiger 850-487-5372 FAX# 850.487.5037
Committee on Transportation staff director Reynold Meyer 850-487-5223, FAX# 850.410.0086
Committee on Judiciary staff director Eric Maclure 850-487-5198, FAX# 850.410.0082
DEP Staff Member Michael.Kliner@myfloridahouse.gov ask him to circulate to all committee members
Environment & Natural Resources Council Director Tom.Hamby@laspbs.state.fl.us ask him to circulate to all members
Policy and Budget Director Michael.Hansen@LASPBS.STATE.FL.US ask to circulate to all members
The Hobnorable, Jimmy T. Patronis, Jr FAX# 850.914.6302