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Keys vessel pump-out plan to become permanent

Monroe County’s vessel pump-out program logs its millionth gallon of sewage that does not get dumped into Florida Keys waters in a four-year program. Pumpout USA is the county contractor.
Monroe County’s vessel pump-out program logs its millionth gallon of sewage that does not get dumped into Florida Keys waters in a four-year program. Pumpout USA is the county contractor.

A bill requiring mandatory wastewater pump-outs for Florida Keys liveaboard vessels passed both houses of the Florida Legislature this week and now awaits a final signature from Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill sponsored by Keys state Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) establishes a permanent requirement that vessels anchored for more than 10 days within a designated no-discharge area have a sticker indicating proof of a regular sewage pump-out.

Aside from state budget requests, the pump-out bill (CS/HB 7043) was a priority for Monroe County in the 2017 legislative session, said county legislative liaison Lisa Tennyson.

Pump-outs have been required for four years under a state pilot project on anchored vessels. However, that test program, which includes Monroe County, expires this summer. The program has significantly reduced waste illegally dumped into Keys protected waters, Tennyson said.

“It’s been a big success but without this legislation, we would have had no local authority to require pump-outs,” Tennyson said. “Rep. Raschein and our Marine Resources Office did a great job getting this bill through both houses on an issue where there are a host of competing stakeholders.”

“Now that bill is off to the governor’s office,” said Kate DeLoach, legislative aide to Raschein. “Holly worked very hard on this bill and it’s going to be a very, very good thing for Monroe County.”

The bill also outlines new rules prohibiting the title transfer of a boat tagged as a derelict vessel.

In December, Monroe County logged 1 million gallons of vessel sewage safely removed by a pump-out contractor. All Keys waters are designated as a no-discharge area by rules of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

E-meetings

The Keys’ unique geography of being more than 100 miles long helped pass Raschein’s HB 1295, which allows Monroe County to use “communications media technology” to hold some meetings.

Using online connections or telephone conference calls can allow volunteer advisory-board members to avoid spending hours in the car to attend a brief meeting, Tennyson said. Interested members of the public will have some type of access.

“We had to get special authority because there is a Sunshine [Law] issue but it’s going to save our board members and citizens a lot of travel,” Tennyson said.

No final votes can be taken using the technology. Exact details of how the system will work have yet to be determined, Tennyson said.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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