Photo: FWC in Resident News

” …The City of Jacksonville is on the cusp of limiting long-term anchoring in the city’s waterways, and the highly-trafficked Ortega River in particular, to 45 days.

It didn’t take an act of Congress, just the Florida Legislature, and cooperation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that controls the state’s waterways, plus a local push from Jacksonville City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor and the city’s Waterways Commission.

Derelict vessels and the troubles they bring to the Ortega River and the larger St. Johns River are not new but they’ve become more common in recent years, residents say.

They damage other boats and docks in storms, serve as low rent housing and appear as eyesores against otherwise scenic vistas. But the river blight has united the many parties in cooperation of a common goal: improving traffic conditions for boaters, many of whom live and/or play on the river.

Councilwoman DeFoor put it like this for landlubbers; imagine an old car in disrepair. It may still run but it’s not your weekend piddle project. It’s just parked in front of your house. For months on end. And you can’t do anything to move it.

That will soon change for derelict boats, however.

Two new city ordinances moving toward approval should improve traffic on the river. One measure will remove a nuisance vessel from the Ortega River via a state grant program funded from a portion of boater registration fees. The cost is $30,000.

Another ordinance crafted by Councilwoman DeFoor will prohibit vessels from serving as long-term housing by capping anchoring periods in the high traffic parts of the St. Johns River, like the Ortega River, to 45 days.

‘Neighbors who live along the Ortega River brought this issue to my attention when I was running for office,’ explained Councilwoman DeFoor by email. ‘I’ve been a boater my whole life and I understand the joy and responsibilities of owning a boat. Lisa Grubba, Mike Barker, and other neighbors shared their concerns with me and because the waterways are controlled by the state we brought Representative Wyman Duggan in on the conversations…

‘We can’t let the Ortega River fill up like a junkyard,’ added Mr. Barker.”

— Joel Addington, Resident Community News

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