Back in April, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) directed the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency (RBRA) to “provide a concise policy proposal that will result in removing all illegal anchor-outs from the Bay within five years.”
The RBRA has called that five-year timeline infeasible—even under the best of circumstances, “but now made even more challenging by COVID-19’s impact on resources for housing and abatement.”
At its June 11 meeting, which I attended via Zoom, RBRA harbormaster Curtis Havel confirmed that Richardson Bay is a temporary anchorage, “no longer a storage lot” or marina for long-term residents.
The RBRA presented a draft of a plan staff calls Safe & Seaworthy, with the goals of:
- Avoiding injury or death to anchor-outs or others
- Protecting habitat, preventing waste and debris
- Minimizing risk of going aground or sinking
If approved by the BCDC and adopted, the Safe & Seaworthy program will allow eligible vessels to comply with RBRA safety requirements and stay in the anchorage for an unspecified period of time while the agency helps owners to find alternative housing, either on land or in marina slips with subsidized rents. RBRA is seeking grant money to manage what it calls “the final transition off the Bay.”
All occupied vessels counted in an August 2019 census will be eligible to enroll in the program and to begin upgrading their vessels to meet the RBRA safety requirements. Vessels must be operationally seaworthy, with secure ground tackle, have valid registrations or documentation, have working waste facilities and decks clear of debris, and the occupant(s) must have no criminal record, on the Bay, docks, or shoreline. No unoccupied vessels will be allowed to remain in the anchorage. Ineligible boats would be subject to removal after February 15, 2021. Vessels that fall out of compliance with the requirements will be subject to removal as an RBRA enforcement priority.
Richardson’s Bay will be divided into three designated zones:
- Eelgrass restoration
- Eelgrass protection
- Anchoring zone for visiting vessels
Havel, who will become Administrator of the RBRA in July, predicted that the agency will begin enrolling vessel owners in the Safe & Seaworthy program by mid-October. Currently, not all vessel occupants own the vessels they occupy, but only registered owners will be accepted into the program. He said the agency will schedule inspections of all enrolled vessels to identify improvements needed to become and remain eligible for “legacy status,” although anchor-out spokesman Alden Bevington expressed skepticism about mariners agreeing to such inspections. Once enrolled, a boat would no longer be transferable within the anchorage. “No musical chairs,” in Havel’s words.
The RBRA will present this proposal to the BCDC Enforcement Committee on July 11. For more information on that meeting, go to the BCDC website. In the meeting announcement, check to see if Agenda and Meeting Materials appears in blue. When it does, you can click on it for a Zoom Virtual Meeting link if you would like to attend the meeting remotely.