FSG’s legal program resolves jurisdictional issues to support management

PI: Tom Ankerson, University of Florida

Recap: Florida Sea Grant’s legal program offered the city of Crystal River legal and policy assistance for a host of issues impacting King’s Bay, an urbanized spring-fed waterway and vital refuge for endangered manatees. Its research and counsel enabled the city to enact several key policy changes to tackle business regulation, transient anchoring, and jurisdictional conflicts.

Relevance: Managing urban bay waters in Florida’s Crystal River requires balancing a host of competing interests. The city of Crystal River sits on King’s Bay, an urbanized springhead in Florida. Its constant temperature and clear waters provide refuge for hundreds of federally endangered manatees in winter months, creating an internationally famous ecotourism destination. Vendors vie for customers, leading to crowded waters. Boaters also compete for space, and derelict and at-risk vessels have become a chronic problem.

Response: The Florida Sea Grant legal program began working with the city in 2018 to identify and address a series of issues, including resolving ownership of submerged lands at the mouth of a key spring and manatee refuge that feeds the bay; creating a framework for managing ecotourism vendors; addressing derelict and at-risk vessels that are visual blights and pollution hazards; and addressing jurisdictional issues resulting from divided political boundaries within the bay.

Results: The FSG legal program’s research enabled the city to negotiate a quitclaim deed with the owner of important submerged lands, paving the way for managing transient anchoring. Based on a program memorandum, the city adopted franchise contracts for vendors at city-based facilities. During 2021, it has removed 54 derelict and at-risk vessels. With the help of the program’s research, the city has moved to annex the bay bottom from the county to further manage uses of the bay.

Partners: City of Crystal River