Environment

They’re floating on the water. But they’re not boats. And that’s worrying some

An unapproved floating structure in Buttonwood Sound off Key Largo, cited as a navigational hazard.
An unapproved floating structure in Buttonwood Sound off Key Largo, cited as a navigational hazard. Monroe County photo

Moored rafts, makeshift homes on the water and other floating structures have spurred complaints of environmental damage, visual blight and removal costs, Monroe County commissioners heard last week.

“The presence of anchored and moored floating structures in the Keys has become more prevalent in recent years, likely exacerbated by increasing housing costs and often-perceived right of living on the water, off-grid and incurring no taxes or costs of infrastructure,” according to a report from the county’s Marine Resources office.

But many of those structures, not licensed or regulated as vessels, are abandoned, sink or lack sanitary facilities, said Rich Jones, Marine Resources administrator.

Residents complained about floating eyesores, including advertising, that detract from the view of mangroves and blue water.

“I hope the Florida Keys will not be awash with floating billboards,” Lower Keys resident Chuck Licis said.

“My concern is the future of floating structures in the Florida Keys,” said Capt. David Dipre of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We are seeing more of them.”

Having them removed can be complicated and time consuming, Dipre said. The FWC technically has no jurisdiction over over floating structures that are not boats, he noted. Federal officials do, he said, but action seldom happens quickly.

Commissioners gave county staff approval to begin working with state and federal agencies on drafting a local ordinance that would address the concerns over floating structures.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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