POLICING THE WATERWAYS
THE ISSUE: Public safety on the water.
OUR OPINION: Crystal River moves in the right direction.
With seven rivers and 27 miles of lakes, a large portion of Citrus County is actually made up of water.
Our law enforcement agencies do a pretty good job of enforcing the law on the land. But things get a little damp when those same agencies decide who is responsible for enforcing the laws on the water.
As tourism and boating increases in Citrus County, the importance of law enforcement on the water becomes more critical. There is an alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies that have some responsibility to get things done on the water. What they all have in common is the frequent complaint that they do not have the resources or money to do the job.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Corp of Engineers and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department each have responsibilities. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Florida Department of Law Enforcement also get called in on occasion. The cities of Inverness and Crystal River also have water bodies within their boundaries and have the responsibility to enforce the law.
That’s why it is actually good news this month that the city of Crystal River has contracted with the county sheriff’s department to beef up law enforcement on the water. To facilitate the enforcement, the city has actually purchased two boats, which are said to be useful in the enforcement of the law while on the water.
The CCSO — through a contract paid for by the city — will begin a more regular enforcement of the law in the city. Drunk boating, speeding in manatee zones, jumping from bridges are all routine violations of the law that can now results in citations or arrests. The key focus of the officers will be safety issues.
The city will also work with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to deal more rigorously with abandoned boats that are frequently dumped in waterways and become a hazard to navigation.
We are pleased that Crystal River has stepped up and increased its spending on water patrols through its contract with the sheriff. We’d like to see a similar increase in patrols on the Homosassa River and around Ozello.
The other important step Crystal River can take to protect King’s Bay and surrounding waters is to work with the state to establish a mooring area with fees attached.
Right now many derelict boats are dumped in our coastal waters because there are no rules and regulations in place. The process of having a derelict boat removed is costly and aggravating for all involved.
Established mooring areas would give local government more muscle in dealing with the derelict boat issue and thus make our waterways safer.