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Florida's Airboats...

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I have been reading another thread about airboat bass fishing and I would like to start a thread on this issue just to see what the members here think of airboats being used on our lakes, rivers and swamps. What are the pros and cons to airboats?

 

 

I'll reserve my opinion for now so as to not color the discussion right from the top.

 

everglades-airboat-rides.jpg

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Airboats to me is synonymous to the Everglades. I see countless amounts of airboats when I fish in the glades. I have ridden on them once. The way I view them is that they are a mode of transportation to navigate in swamp lands that are other wise unreachable besides helicopter. Down here in South FL, Fire rescue and FWC airboats have saved many people from plane crashes to strandings. 

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Also being from south Florida I get to see my fair share, and like previously stated some of them are a necessity. They do get on my nerves sometimes with how loud they are and all of the wind they blow at you when they pass, but they have the same right to the water as anyone else. Not as bad as jet skis in the more suburban lakes.

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Thanks for the responses. 

 

I consider an airboat as a great way to reach impossible to get to places where no other boat can go. So that is a great plus for airboats and why they are so popular and used by fire, police, and rescue. Vegetation in the water is not an obstacle for them especially since some airboats can move around just fine on dry land.

 

But there are some cons to airboats and as already stated they can be quite noisy. But the real issue with airboats is that they are extremely destructive to the natural environment and tear up vegetation and leave a trail of destruction behind them.

 

One reponse above was that airboats have the same rights to be on the water as any other boat and I would have to strongly disagree with this. I would say it is the opposite. Airboats DO NOT have the same rights to be on the same waters as all other boats because of the loudness factor and destruction of environment factor.

 

In fact, here in Florida, many counties and local governments are closing in on airboats reducing the areas they can be operated in by passing increasingly stiffer laws and regulations for them.

 

A question that must be asked- we all know that to live on the water and have property along side of nice lakes and rivers is more expensive than land not on lakes and rivers. Today such property is at a premium. And if you lived alongside of a nice river or lake, would you want to hear loud airboats inside your home when you are trying to sleep? Or, your babies are trying to sleep and some airboat club is blowing up and down the river with 20 airboats at all times of day and night?

 

Do airboat owners have the right to disturb countless numbers of people with their loud noise? The answer to this is increasingly no they do not.

 

Many governments are developing noise laws for this very reason and will only allow airboats to operate during daylight hours in some places because of this.

 

People have a constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but airboat owners don't seem to care about the rights of others who don't want to listen to their loud engines and props. So the fight is on here in Florida to close in on airboat owners and operators big time.

 

I use to live about one mile from the St. Johns river here in central Florida and we could hear the airboats where we lived. Think of all the thousands of people living within range of that one airboat owner operator who is disturbing all those people with his one airboat. In a democracy, the majority can rule by power of the vote, and if more people vote against airboats than for them when these airboat restriction laws are brought into existence, the people who want peace and quiet inside their homes will win. So airboats do not have the same rights as everyone else. It is everyone else who are enforcing their rights to peace and quiet on their own property and inside their homes, and they are telling airboat owners and operators you do not have the right to disturb us and our peace and tranquility just because you want to operate an airboat.

 

But the worst part about airboats is how destructive they are to the environment and vegetation. I once tried to fish on east lake Toho in central Florida. What a nightmare! There was freshly uprooted cattails and other vegetation floating all over the lake greatly reducing my enjoyment of the lake as a fisherman. It was a mess. Try casting in that mess. You will foul up nearly every cast. So the question is now do airboat owners have the right to completely destroy a lake and make it just about useless for anyone else? I'd say no.

 

The culprit behind this vegetation destruction was a commerical airboat company who were selling tickets daily to tourists to ride an airboat and what a thrill it must be to pick out some vegetation to drive the airboat through it to satisfy the paying customer. Never mind there are birds nesting in there. Just run them down. Who cares?

 

So here is another very good reason to create new laws to further isolate and restrict airboats.

 

If cigarette smokers are constantly tossing their cigarette butts out their windows and onto the ground as litter, shouldn't cigarette smokers have to pay for that cleanup? Tax the crap out of their cigarettes and make them pay for the cleanup of their mess and pollution. And the same thing should be done to airboat owners and operators.

 

Destroying the environment and disturbing the peace and quiet should cost them, not us.

 

When it comes time to vote on new laws for airboats, I won't be siding with any airboat owners. I have seen too much destruction of the environment by them, and having to listen to them disturb me inside my own home for 7 years was long enough.

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http://www.myfloridalegal.com/ago.nsf/Opinions/75532F458F1935EF85257641004EFD6F

 

Number: AGO 2009-45
Date: September 29, 2009
Subject: County imposed airboat curfew
 

Mr. David W. Wagner
County Attorney
Alachua County Attorney’s Office
Post Office Box 2877
Gainesville, Florida 32602

RE: COUNTIES – ORDINANCES – CURFEWS – AIRBOATS – FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION – authority of county to adopt airboat curfew. ss. 327.46 and 327.60, Fla. Stat., as amended by Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla.

Dear Mr. Wagner:

On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners of Alachua County, you have asked for my opinion on substantially the following questions:

1. Does a county-imposed curfew on airboats that is based upon eliminating airboat operational noise create a boating-restricted area subject to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approval pursuant to Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida.

2. Does a county-imposed curfew prohibiting the operation of airboats on specified water bodies in Alachua county during certain hours create a boating restricted area governed by the criteria and procedures in Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida?

3. Does a county-imposed curfew prohibiting the operation of airboats on all water bodies in Alachua County during certain hours create a boating-restricted area governed by the criteria and procedures in Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida?

4. Does section 327.60(2)(e), Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida, allow a local government to adopt an ordinance imposing an airboat curfew, for reasons other than public safety, by a two-thirds vote of the governing body?

In sum:

1. - 3. A county-imposed curfew on airboats that is based upon eliminating airboat operational noise does not create a boating-restricted area within the scope of section 327.46, Florida Statutes, which would be subject to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approval pursuant to Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, as amended by Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida. 

4. Section 327.60(2)(e), Florida Statutes, authorizes counties to adopt ordinances governing the operation of vessels which may discriminate against airboats when such ordinances are adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body enacting such an ordinance. In enacting any such ordinance, the county must balance its concern for the public health, safety, and welfare with constitutional considerations and a recognition that any such regulation must not be in violation of constitutional protections afforded to the public for the use of, and access to, state sovereignty lands.

According to information you have supplied to this office, Alachua County is considering adopting a curfew on airboat operation on county waterways. The purpose of this ordinance is to deal with the noise caused by airboats on county water bodies, especially the disruption caused by that noise during nighttime hours. Alachua County currently has a noise ordinance prohibiting the operation of motor boats or watercraft in any water body in the county in a manner so as to exceed the sound level of 90 dba at a distance of 15 meters (50 feet), or the nearest shoreline, whichever instance is less. The ordinance under consideration by the county commission would impose a curfew on the nighttime operation of airboats. In light of amendments to Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, during the 2009 legislative session, you have questions about the county’s authority to establish such a curfew and any applicable legislative requirements for the adoption of such an ordinance. 
Questions One - Three

Your first three questions, dealing with local legislation on the issue of boating-restricted areas, will be considered together.

In the absence of federal legislation and subject to the powers of Congress over navigable waters, Florida has full regulatory authority over navigable waters within state limits and may even legislate in the area of navigation in appropriate circumstances.[1] In recognition of this authority, the state has enacted Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, which regulates the registration and safety of vessels using Florida waters, and the provisions of Chapter 861, Florida Statutes, making the obstruction of navigability a criminal offense.[2]

The state has delegated the protection of navigable waters within counties to local governments, provided there is no interference with federal governmental control within the county’s jurisdiction.[3] In this regard, section 327.60, Florida Statutes, authorizes local governments to adopt ordinances or local laws relating to the operation and equipment of vessels and provides limitations on that authority. Section 327.60, Florida Statutes, as amended by section 14, Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida, provides that

"(1) The provisions of this chapter and chapter 328 shall govern the operation, equipment, and all other matters relating thereto whenever any vessel shall be operated upon the waters of this state or when any activity regulated hereby shall take place thereon. 
(2) Nothing in this chapter or chapter 328 shall be construed to prevent the adoption of any ordinance or local regulation relating to operation of vessels, except that a county or municipality shall not enact, continue in effect, or enforce any ordinance or local regulation: 
(a) Establishing a vessel or associated equipment performance or other safety standard, imposing a requirement for associated equipment, or regulating the carrying or use of marine safety articles; 
(B) Relating to the design, manufacture, installation, or use of any marine sanitation device on any vessel; 
© Regulating any vessel upon the Florida Intracoastal Waterway; 
(d) Discriminating against personal watercraft; 
(e) Discriminating against airboats, for ordinances adopted after July 1, 2006, unless adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body enacting such ordinance; 
(f) Regulating the anchoring of vessels other than live-aboard vessels outside the marked boundaries of mooring fields permitted as provided in s. 327.40;
(g) Regulating engine or exhaust noise, except as provided in s. 327.65; or 
(h) That conflicts with any provisions of this chapter or any amendments thereto or rules adopted thereunder."

This statute, as amended, became effective July 1, 2009.[4] Further, section 327.22, Florida Statutes, authorizes a county that expends money for the patrol, regulation, and maintenance of any lakes, rivers, or waters and for other boating-related activities in the county to regulate vessels resident in the county.

Section 327.46, Florida Statutes, as amended by section 13, Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida, authorizes the creation of boating-restricted areas "for any purpose necessary to protect the safety of the public if such restrictions are necessary based on boating accidents, visibility, hazardous currents or water levels, vessel traffic congestion, or other navigational hazards."[5] Counties are given specific authority to establish certain boating-restricted areas by ordinance including ordinances establishing an idle speed, no wake boating-restricted area;[6] an ordinance establishing a slow speed, minimum wake boating-restricted area;[7] an ordinance establishing a vessel-exclusion zone for such things as public bathing beaches or swim areas and dams, spillways, or flood control structures.[8] Nothing in section 327.46, Florida Statutes, contemplates the creation of boating-restricted areas for purposes other than the protection of the safety of the public. 

Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, imposes specific requirements for noise abatement of vessel engines.[9] Counties are authorized to adopt additional noise pollution and exhaust regulations pursuant to section 327.65(2), Florida Statutes, as amended by section 15, Chapter 2009-86, Laws of Florida. 

This office, in Attorney General Opinion 2005-58, advised Citrus County that it was prohibited from adopting an ordinance creating a boating-restricted area near residential properties for the purpose of vessel noise abatement outside of the specific grant of authority provided in Chapter 327, Florida Statutes. In that opinion, the county questioned whether it could create vessel restricted areas, such as idle speed zones, near residential properties as a means of controlling unnecessary vessel noise. The opinion recognizes the statutory and administrative rule prohibiting adoption of any boating-restricted area "for the purpose of noise abatement" and concludes that, while the county could adopt more stringent noise abatement legislation pursuant to Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, it could not create a boating-restricted area for the purpose of noise abatement.

The ordinance Alachua County proposes is not an ordinance to create a boating-restricted area as defined in section 327.46, Florida Statutes. Section 327.60(2), Florida Statutes, as amended, states that no provision of chapter 327 should be construed to prevent the adoption of any ordinance relating to the operation of vessels with certain specified exceptions. It appears to be the purpose of Alachua County’s ordinance to regulate the operation of airboats on county water bodies during particular hours of the day. Pursuant to the statute, a county may not adopt or enforce any ordinance or local regulation "[d]iscriminating against airboats . . . unless adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body enacting such ordinance[.]"[10] Alachua County proposes to adopt a curfew restricting the operation of airboats on county waterways and section 327.60(2), Florida Statutes, would appear to authorize the adoption and enforcement of such an ordinance if it is adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body of the county. In addition, because a curfew on the operation of airboats would not appear to come within the scope of section 327.46, Florida Statutes, such an ordinance would not require approval by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission pursuant to that statute.[11]

Question Four

You have also asked whether section 327.60(2)(e), Florida Statutes, would allow a local government to adopt an airboat operation curfew by a two-thirds vote of the governing body. You have provided no information on the terms of such an ordinance and this office has no authority to pass on the validity of local legislation.[12] However, any such legislation would be tested against certain constitutional considerations and I outline these below.

Section 327.60(2), Florida Statutes, specifically provides that nothing in Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, prevents the adoption and enforcement of ordinances "discriminating against airboats . . . [if such ordinances are] adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body enacting such ordinance[.]"[13] Whether a court would find that a particular ordinance such as a curfew ordinance specifically applying only to airboats falls within the scope of this statute will depend on the particular terms of the ordinance and on its application and enforcement. 

I would note that federal courts have recognized that the imposition of a curfew implicates the fundamental right to "move about freely in public."[14] The implication of a fundamental right will subject any such ordinance to a strict scrutiny review by the courts. To survive this strict review, a classification created by an ordinance must promote a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve this interest. Any such ordinance must use the least restrictive means to accomplish these goals.[15] 

In addition, the Alachua County Commission, in enacting any such ordinance, must balance its concern for the public health, safety, and welfare with a recognition that any such regulation must not be in violation of constitutional protections afforded to the public for the use of, and access to, state sovereignty land. Thus, the commission must recognize and accommodate the constitutionally derived protection known as the public trust doctrine.[16] 

In sum, section 327.60(2)(e), Florida Statutes, authorizes counties to adopt ordinances governing the operation of vessels which may discriminate against airboats when such ordinances are adopted by a two-thirds vote of the governing body enacting such an ordinance. In enacting any such ordinance, the county must balance its concern for the public health, safety, and welfare with constitutional considerations and a recognition that any such regulation must not be in violation of constitutional protections afforded to the public for the use of, and access to, state sovereignty lands.[17] 

Sincerely,

Bill McCollum
Attorney General

BM/tgh

--------------------------------------------------------------- 

[1] See generally 56 Fla. Jur. 2d Water s. 152, and see Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 05-58 (2005).)

[2] See, e.g., s. 861.02, Fla. Stat., "Obstructing watercourse;" s. 861.05, Fla. Stat., "Obstruction to navigation by bridges;" and s. 861.06, Fla. Stat., "Obstructing harbors."

[3] See Board of County Commissioners of Escambia County v. Board of Pilot Commissioners of the Port of Pensacola, 42 So. 697 (Fla. 1906) (holding that the depth of the water in a river, harbor, bay, or port in a county is one of the chief elements of its value, and its protection from injury by being filled in is within the purposes for which county governments are established, even though the harbor or bay is also and largely used for passage to and from, and commerce with, points beyond the county);Board of County Commissioners of Pinellas County v. Ford, 419 So. 2d 786 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982) (a county water and navigation control authority could consider navigational factors in regulating the construction of docks under a special act recognizing the right of an upland owner to construct a dock in front of the upland as provided by state law, but permitting the authority to make reasonable rules and regulations for construction thereof; moreover, the authority's decision to deny a private dock permit application on the ground the structure would pose a hindrance to navigation was supported by substantial competent evidence in the form of statements by qualified persons that the waterway was heavily traveled and adversely affected by shoaling, tides, and currents, notwithstanding that the proposed dock complied with deed lot restrictions, the authority’s rules, and city zoning ordinances, and was considered reasonable by the United States Army Corps of Engineers).

[4] See s. 64, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla., providing an effective date.

[5] Section 327.46(1), Fla. Stat., as amended by s. 13, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla. 

[6] Section 327.46(1)(b)1., Fla. Stat., as amended by s. 13, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla. 

[7] Section 327.46(1)(b)2., Fla. Stat., as amended by s. 13, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla. 

[8] Section 327.46(1)(b)3., Fla. Stat. And see s. 327.46(1)©, Fla. Stat., authorizing local governments to adopt additional ordinances creating other boating-restricted areas for certain navigability issues.

[9] See s. 327.65(1), Florida Statutes, requiring the exhaust of vessel engines to be muffled by equipment that muffles the noise of the exhaust in a reasonable manner.

[10] Section 327.60(2)(e), Fla. Stat., as amended by s. 14, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla.

[11] See s. 327.46(1), Fla. Stat., as amended by s. 13, Ch. 2009-86, Laws of Fla., which states that no boating restricted ordinance shall take effect until the commission has reviewed the ordinance and determined that the ordinance is necessary to protect public safety pursuant to the statuteand Collier County Board of County Commissioners v. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 993 So. 2d 69 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008).

[12] See s. 16.01(3), Fla. Stat., authorizing the Attorney General to issue opinions on questions of state law.

[13] Section 327.60(2)(e), Fla. Stat.

[14] See, e.g., Schleifer v. City of Charlottesville, 992 F.Supp. 823 (W.D. Va., 1997),affirmed, 159 F.3d 843 (4th Cir. 1998), petition for cert. denied, 526 U.S. 1018, 119 S.Ct. 1252, 143 L.Ed.2d 349 (1999); Qutb v. Strauss, 11 F.3d 488 (5th Cir. Tex., 1993),cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1127, 114 S.Ct. 2134, 128 L.Ed.2d 864 (1994); Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 94-02 (1994); U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 14.

[15] See State v. J.P., 907 So. 2d 1101 (Fla. 2004) and Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 94-02 (1994) and cases cited therein.

[16] See McDowell v. Trustees of Internal Improvement Fund, 90 So. 2d 715 (Fla. 1956);White v. Hughes, 190 So. 446 (Fla. 1939); Adams v. Elliott, 174 So. 731 (Fla. 1937); and Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 85-47 (1985), 79-71 (1979), and 73-430 (1973). 

[17] This constitutionally derived protection is known as the public trust doctrine.See McDowell v. Trustees of Internal Improvement Fund, 90 So. 2d 715 (Fla. 1956); White v. Hughes, 190 So. 446 (Fla. 1939); Adams v. Elliott, 174 So. 731 (Fla. 1937); and Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 94-02 (1994), 85-47 (1985), 79-71 (1979), and 73-430 (1973).

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Other headlines in Florida news over the years:

 

Lake Griffin Airboat Restriction Likely

Residents near Lake Griffin may not have to endure late-night noise from airboats much longer.City leaders said Monday night they intend to restrict airboats on Lake Griffin, just like they did two years ago for Lake Harris.The reason? Too much noise - especially late at night.Airboats, which often are equipped with airplane engines, are noisy vessels. The recent opening of alligator-hunting season on Lake Griffin has lured many airboats there to hunt at night, to the annoyance of nearby residents, city Police Chief Chuck Idell said.

 

Osceola to review airboat ordinance

When Osceola County commissioners voted last month to limit the use of its public boat ramps by airboat tour operators, the idea was to eliminate a liability problem. But tour operators say it effectively eliminated their ability to make a living. The ordinance limits the use of the ramps to no more than twice a day per company. The boats must not carry more than four passengers including the captain. "This will put us out of business," said Debbie Clark, owner of Spirit of the Swamp, an airboat-tour company.

 

 

December 20, 2006
Osceola County -- County commissioners agreed Monday to postpone voting on an airboat-noise ordinance until Jan. 22 so county attorneys can tweak the measure's language, officials said, Paul Nguyen, assistant county attorney, said there were "kinks" in the language that need to be ironed out. The measure follows wording of a state law that says airboat engines must be equipped with automotive-style mufflers. Commissioners have the option of amending the measure in the future to restrict the times of day boats can be used.
 
September 29, 2005
GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering requiring mufflers on airboats. The commission voted last week to come up with a new policy on airboat noise and will conduct a public hearing on the issue at its Nov. 30 meeting in Key Largo. Airboat owners say their community generally supports the use of mufflers, said Jerry Wetherington, president of the United Sportsmen and Airboaters Alliance. "Everybody seemed to agree that the airboat organizations are going to work toward putting mufflers on our boats and work with the manufacturers to develop quieter props," Wetherington said.
 
By Craig Quintana of The Sentinel Staff,
You don't have to tell Leonard Harrell he and other airboaters have an image problem.Harrell, president of the fledgling Florida Airboat Federation, knows the refrain: ''They are noisy. They get close to residential areas, and it's like an airplane coming over your house. If they hang in the area, it's aggravating.''When operated improperly, the boats can be annoying, if not ear-splitting, Harrell agrees.That is why on Labor Day weekend the federation is organizing the ''First Annual Airboat Jamboree'' at Lake Harney, which separates Seminole and Volusia counties.

 

By Jacqueline W. and Jacqueline H. AshleyAugust 19, 1992
In reference to a proposed Leesburg ban on airboats, I would like to clarify previously published references to the alligator egg collection project. This is a project funded and operated by the private alligator industry, yet sanctioned by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.Alligator egg collection occurs throughout the state. This year, Lake Griffin was one of the chosen sites. Lake Harris may or may not be chosen as a future site and Venetian Gardens may or may not be the launch site for the collection team.
 
By Daphne Sashin, Sentinel Staff WriterMarch 20, 2007
KISSIMMEE -- Osceola County commissioners voted 4-1 Monday for a nighttime ban on airboats on two lakes. The decision was a compromise with boaters, who complained an earlier proposal was too restrictive. The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, prohibits airboats on heavily populated West Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Toho from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Commissioner Tom Franklin opposed the motion. An earlier proposal that alarmed airboat operators would have set the curfew on all but a few lakes and would have stayed in effect an hour later.
 
By Daphne Sashin, Sentinel Staff WriterJanuary 31, 2007
KISSIMMEE -- Plans to impose a nighttime curfew for airboats are on hold for 60 days while Osceola County officials meet with airboat operators in search of common ground. In the meantime, the commission agreed only to enforce a state law that went into effect July 1 requiring airboats to be equipped with mufflers. At a packed meeting Monday night, the crowd of airboat users said they had spent hundreds of dollars to comply with the state law. They criticized the county for not consulting them when it proposed a ban on airboat use between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on most public waters, with some exceptions.
By Don Wilson, Sentinel Staff WriterDecember 4, 2005
Airboat owners are going to have to use mufflers on their motors, not just flexible exhaust pipes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided last week at its meeting in Key Largo. They'll have six months to muffle their motors before FWC officers start handing out tickets. The commissioners also decided to promote a campaign to make the craft even quieter, including an event next spring to see who can come up with the quietest airboat. Hydrilla spraying at Lake Toho Water managers are using herbicides to control hydrilla a section of Lake Tohopekaliga on Monday and Tuesday.
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Do you still think airboat owners and operators have the same rights to be on the water as everyone else?
 
The person yes, the airboat, no. And not just no, but HELL NO!
 
We the people will not allow airboat owners to just run all over us. We will enforce when and where and how airboats can be used. Believe that!

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Become a tree hugging animal lover by taking a political office .

 

Going to stop Daytona racing motorcycles & +200 mph cars also from racing on public roads & cutting off others ? 

 

USA is CHOCK FULL of showoffs paying any price to be reckless jerks.

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I would not want an airboat because of the noise they make. But if you want to own one that's fine with me. I also think no one should be allowed to make any loud noises after dark. There is room for airboats on the water but I'm glad they are few of them :)

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As a kayaker- I am not a fan of airboats. They make me feel unsafe. I know they can't see me coming over the marsh grass, and if I blew a whistle as regulated by the coast guard- there's no way they could hear me and avoid running me over. I think the NOISE of an air boat disturbed the wildlife in the surrounding areas and disrupts the environment. I will say though I have never observed the destruction of habitat the OP states- airboats glide over the grass with very little damage at all. Bass boats powering trolling motors through slop or flats boats gouging the bottom of grass flats- running too shallow- cause MUCH more damage.

That being said- they have specific laws and ordinances set up for their operation, and as long as the operator is abiding by those guidelines, then it is litterallly none of my business who chooses to operate one. It is their right to do so.

No matter how hard our govt may try- you can not mandate/regulate common sense and decency. The same type of regulation that tries to keep an airboat from flying up a neighborhood canal is the same one that is trying to keep bass fisherman from fishing docks. Or even the ordinance that is trying to continuously close off more and more waterways as "private" and offer no access to the public at all. Where does it end?

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Interesting point of view. My interaction with airboats are limited to times when I go fishing. Yes, I see them often. I definitely hear them, but I never thought about " what if I lived close to them" .  I am sure my perspective would change if I am consistently hearing them at all hours of the night especially early, early mornings when I am trying to sleep. Just for the sake of discussion, couldn't the same argument be brought up for residence's all around  landing and take off patterns for international and regional airports? I visited people and my own wife works 3 or so miles from MIA Int'l airport, where you are consistently hearing and seeing commercial jets taking off and landing overhead. Is it noisy? Heck yeah. Are there pollution factors? For sure. However, at certain point you wash out and adapt to what's happening overhead. At least, I did and I am sure several hundred's of thousands of people have. Again, this was just for the sake of discussion. 

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As a kayaker- I am not a fan of airboats. They make me feel unsafe. I know they can't see me coming over the marsh grass, and if I blew a whistle as regulated by the coast guard- there's no way they could hear me and avoid running me over. I think the NOISE of an air boat disturbed the wildlife in the surrounding areas and disrupts the environment. I will say though I have never observed the destruction of habitat the OP states- airboats glide over the grass with very little damage at all. Bass boats powering trolling motors through slop or flats boats gouging the bottom of grass flats- running too shallow- cause MUCH more damage.

 

 Airboats are unsafe and that is another issue I had planned on getting into because a lot of airboats are unregulated home made pieces of junk that should not even be on the water, much less even used in the condition some of them are in.

 

As for habitat destruction, I will have to disagree with you on this one. My trolling motor may chop a few plants here and there, but airboats can level an entire football field of plants in minutes uprooting some and pushing them down into the water killing them, not to mention all the birds' nests destroyed.

 

What I saw out on lake Toho was airboat companies taking in money to give their tourist customers a thrill and one of those thrills was plowing through vegetation and cattails, often making quick turns almost sliding the airboat sideways loaded up with people literally plowing up the vegetation leaving it uprooted, shoved down into the water and just leaving behind it a trail of destruction. I will not go back to east lake toho as long as this type of thing is allowed to happen out there.

 

As for kayakers, some areas require kayaks to have an orange flag raised above the boat about 6 feet as a guess (I have not checked regulations on this, just going from memory here) and airboats and other boaters like bass boats are required to stay at least 100 feet away from kayaks so as to not cause injury or flip them over.

 

Usually when I hear about some boater being killed in an accident around here, a majority of injuries and deaths are from airboats.

 

I will see if I can dig up some images to share here of environmental damage airboats cause.

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Interesting point of view. My interaction with airboats are limited to times when I go fishing. Yes, I see them often. I definitely hear them, but I never thought about " what if I lived close to them" .  I am sure my perspective would change if I am consistently hearing them at all hours of the night especially early, early mornings when I am trying to sleep. Just for the sake of discussion, couldn't the same argument be brought up for residence's all around  landing and take off patterns for international and regional airports? I visited people and my own wife works 3 or so miles from MIA Int'l airport, where you are consistently hearing and seeing commercial jets taking off and landing overhead. Is it noisy? Heck yeah. Are there pollution factors? For sure. However, at certain point you wash out and adapt to what's happening overhead. At least, I did and I am sure several hundred's of thousands of people have. Again, this was just for the sake of discussion. 

 

I'm not sure the airport argument is a good analogy. With airboats, they bring the noise to your front door. You are stuck. But with airports the noise is where the airport is and people have move in next to the airport by their own choice.

 

Back in the old days airports were usually built away from town and away from the majority of the population, but what has happened over time is the people have moved close in around the airports that have no where else to go. They are not moving.

 

Buying a home next to an airport is a choice each person has to make to accept the noise, but airboats bring the noise right to you in places you thought were isolated and private and peaceful and tranquil and that is where the fight is coming from.

 

I would like to see laws put on the books statewide to address the airboats running down vegetation that we know contains wildlife they thoughtlessly run down every day in this state. If they want to stay in the main channels of rivers and lakes away from plants like other boaters do for the most part, that would be fine, but when plowing through cattails and other standing plants is where we should draw the line. And it may be coming too...

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http://www.wildwilderness.org/aasg/swamp.htm

 

COMMERCIAL AIRBOAT OPERATIONS DAMAGING BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE

 

Please try to send in a short comment letter on the following action alert by
June 3rd. Letters are critical because the NPS has strong local political
support for continuing these destructive commercial airboat operations.

Thanks,
Brian Scherf
Florida Biodiversity Project
 


A group of commercial airboat operators that conduct airboat "thrill" rides
to tourists have caused wide-scale resource damage to the SW Addition Lands
of Big Cypress National Preserve adjacent to Everglades City. Airboats have
killed mangroves, caused extensive soil rutting in marshes, impacted
wildlife, and prevented other boaters and canoeists from enjoying the area.
The area is also designated critical habitat for the endangered Florida
manatee and impact from airboats may have caused the deaths of three
manatees. Besides the Manatee, the area is habitat for 17 other endangered,
threatened, or Species of Special Concern . Airboat operators are making
almost $3 million a year operating the rides while damaging sensitive natural
resources of the Preserve. This is clear-cut case of public lands being
degraded for private profit.

The 729,000 acre Big Cypress National Preserve in southwest Florida is a
national treasure and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). As
one of the largest public land areas in the east, it is a critical area for
preserving biodiversity with 34 endangered and threatened animals and 124
rare species of plants. Decades of mismanagement of off-road vehicle (ORV)
use in Big Cypress National Preserve has resulted in significant damage to
it's soils, hydrology, vegetation, and wildlife. Unlike a National Park, ORV
use is a permitted regulated activity in the Preserve but the NPS is required
to protect the Preserve's sensitive ecology.

In response to the resource damage by airboats, the NPS has released an
Environmental Assessment (EA) of the commercial airboat operations and the
stated main objective of the EA is to continue these airboat tours instead of
protecting the natural resources of the Preserve. The EA is completely
inadequate and has been cleverly written to downplay resource impacts.

It's now time for the vast majority of the public who want
responsible regulations placed on destructive airboat use to raise their
voices and demand effective management. The NPS is now seeking public
comments on the draft EA. We need the public to advocate the strongest
possible resource protection measures by sending in public comments by June
3rd. Please write and emphasize these major points:

* Because of substantial direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts a full
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required.

* The EA is inadequate because it does not include a reasonable range
of alternatives such as passive uses which include canoeing and kayaking
instead of airboat use. Recommend the passive use alternative.

* The EA fails to analyze specific management actions that would avoid and/or
minimize adverse resource impacts such as prohibiting airboat use in
sensitive wetlands, areas important to wildlife, when conditions are
unsuitable, or conflicts with other recreational users.

* The EA fails to analyze the scale, rate, and intensity of airboat use in
the SW Addition.

* The EA fails to analyze the way in which the airboats are operated
including "thrill" maneuvers.

* The EA fails to analyze specific airboat impacts to soils, hydrology,
vegetation, and wildlife in the SW Addition.

* Require closure of areas significantly impacted by airboats to allow
recovery.

Send your comments to: For further info contact:

    Wallace A. Hibbard Brian Scherf
    Superintendent Biodiversity Project
    Big Cypress National Preserve rscherf350@aol.com
    HCR 61, Box 110
    Ochopee, FL 34141
    (941) 695-2000

 

This document was prepared by Wild Wilderness. To learn more about ongoing industry-backed congressional efforts to motorize, commercialize, and privatize America's public lands, contact:

Scott Silver, Executive Director, 

Wild Wilderness 

248 NW Wilmington Avenue,  Bend  OR 97701 

Phone (541) 385-5261    E-mail: 

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Ok guys, this trips into the gray area of our "no politics" rule, plus there are posts containing copyrighted information (another rule violation), so I'm going to end it here.

 

And scene.

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