Under a state pilot program, St. Augustine enacted an ordinance requiring boats to moor at least fifty feet from the navigable channel of the Intracoastal Waterway. One man who has lived aboard his sailboat for eleven years filed suit challenging the law in federal court.
Under federal maritime law, the federal government has the right to establish mooring rights within the Intracoastal Waterway and its tributaries. The federal supremacy clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.
Generally, regulation of the use of the Intracoastal Waterway depends upon whether or not the federal government has preempted state and local law by enacting federal law over various uses of the waterway. However, the State of Florida owns the bottom lands of the Waterway by right of sovereignty under federalism. Unless the federal government intervenes in various uses, local governments may set speed limits for marine vessels, for example, transiting the waterway.
Court watchers await the final decision of the United States Supreme Court if the matter reaches that level of judicial authority. The author of this blog believes the federal government will prevail. In the absence of a uniform federal law on mooring, the author envisions scores of municipalities each with a confusing mishmash of differing mooring laws along the waterway.