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New crackdown on abandoned boats targets ‘out-of-control’ problem in South Florida

Dec. 26, 2022 Updated Mon., Dec. 26, 2022 at 7:22 p.m.

By Lisa J. Huriash South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – When Rick Legow looks over the basin at Hollywood’s North Lake, it isn’t always the view he wants.

There are dozens of abandoned boats, some of them tethered to one another. Some have sunken. More just drift. Other boaters dump their waste overboard.

He said both North Lake and South Lake, which are on opposite ends of Hollywood Boulevard and both connect to the Intracoastal Waterway, have been “hijacked by irresponsible boaters” who are squeezing out traditional lake users.

“It’s dangerous to navigate there, with anchor lines that you don’t know where they go,” he said. “It’s been a problem for years.”

Because of a new state law that gives counties the right to establish their own anchoring limits near urban areas, boaters now won’t be able to anchor their vessel for more than 45 days within six months.

Because Broward has approved its limited anchoring ordinance, cities are now permitted to use their law enforcement to stop boats from anchoring indefinitely. “It has gotten a little out of control,” admits County Commissioner Beam Furr.

Hollywood Commissioner Caryl Shuham told county leaders that because cities were not previously permitted to control the unlimited anchoring, the “lakes suffered damages,” raising concerns about the environment and public safety.

The areas are filled with “decrepit, malfunctioning boats,” she said.

Until now, there’s a lengthy process for the cities to see relief. But starting immediately, abandoned boats will get a citation, the boats could be towed and impounded for repeat offenders within 12 hours, and if there are multiple violations, the boats could be permanently removed and disposed.

“It deters boats from just throwing anchor,” Shuham said.

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said dozens of boats have been stored at one time by owners who are “using our waterways as storage area,” including boats that smash into docks.

“It’s going to allow for recreational use of our waterways in a manner that’s intended,” he said.

Terry Cantrell, the president of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association, said sailing schools that use the lakes have had “nowhere to sail anymore” due to the derelict vessels.

Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin said he’s eager to use the new county law to stop dumped boats in his city, too, particularly at the Hillsboro Inlet and the area of Lake Santa Barbara, which is adjacent to the Intracoastal.

“It’s an issue,” he said. “It’s a problem with people anchoring derelict boats.”

He recalls one case of a sunken boat with its mast sticking out of the water.

“It took almost an act of God for us to be able to remove it,” Hardin said.

Without rules about anchoring “it can sit there forever.”

The new anchoring rules are separate from another county effort to clean up after homeless boats within a county park, also in Hollywood.

Hollywood North Beach Park has had a dumping ground in a section known as Loggerhead Park. Boats are left to drown or rot forever in the waters off the ocean.

The county is working to discourage boat owners from abandoning their vessels. On tap are $3.2 million of improvements that include boat slips and amenities such as new bathrooms, showers and laundry areas, a picnic shelter, temporary onshore dinghy docking, a sewage pump-out station and 29 overnight mooring spaces on both the north and south sides of Sheridan Street.

Soon, boaters will need advance registration to sail in, and they’ll have to pay for their space for the first time. There also will be limits on their stays.

But first the county will have to dig up the abandoned boats, sometimes from the bottom of the waterway, said Dan West, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Division.

The new portion of the park could be open to the public as early as the end of 2023.

“I think this will be something that will truly be beneficial not just for the local community, the local residents, but enhance our value for the boating community – safe, overnight dockage facilities in Hollywood,” West said. “We think it’s going to be an outstanding improvement – and takes care of some of our problems.”

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