BRUNSWICK, Maine — A new harbor commission and proposed rule changes that will require boat owners to register moorings annually — and eventually pay for them — are signs of what’s to come as the town begins to implement recommendations from a comprehensive harbor management plan adopted earlier this year.
The Town Council is expected to hold a public hearing at its Monday, March 24, meeting on proposed harbor ordinance amendments that will change various mooring rules and strengthen the harbormaster’s authority over local waters.
Besides calling for annual mooring registrations, the proposal also calls for implementing registration fees, requiring more up-front information for registration, requiring mooring inspections every other year after installation and clarifying where moorings are allowed in local waters.
If the council approves the changes, boat owners will have to register their moorings by May 1 and then every following year.
Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux, who is also the town’s harbormaster, said the annual registration, along with other changes, will allow the town to achieve better accountability of moorings.
Currently, Devereaux said, it’s hard to keep track of moorings for regulation and inspection purposes. He said that’s because the town can only estimate the number of moorings in local waters based on a one-time registration that was required for existing moorings in 2005 and subsequent one-time mooring registrations.
Mooring fees, he said, won’t be implemented until at least 2015, but when they are, they will ultimately help the town better manage the waterfront.
Councilors Steve Walker and Suzan Wilson, who have been working on the harbor ordinance changes with Devereaux, have suggested a $50 fee for residents and $100 fee for non-residents, but the proposal is far from final.
Acknowledging that implementing fees might encounter some pushback, Devereaux said they will allow the town to create a dedicated revenue stream for waterfront projects.
“We as citizens need to understand that to be able to plan for this and have accountability for what’s on the coast line, it costs a lot of money,” Devereaux said, “so hopefully we can fill costs with mooring fees.”
He said the changes, which have been considered since the town adopted its harbor ordinance in 2005, will bring the town in line with other communities.
“People are a little skeptical about why we need to make changes now,” Devereaux said, “but these changes are critical to the establishment of any harbor ordinance.”
The changes are expected to serve as the baseline for future changes to the town’s harbor ordinance, which will be guided by the new Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission, using the harbor management plan, according to Devereaux.
The commission is to represent a range of interests for the town’s waterfront, including marine resources, conservation and recreation.
The council is currently seeking applicants for one member to represent marine-related commercial interests, and three citizen members, who may represent different geographic areas in town. Applications are due to the town clerk’s office at 28 Federal St. by April 14. (The office address will change to 85 Union St. when the new town hall opens).
The rest of the commission will be filled by one member each from the Marine Resources Committee, Conservation Commission, and Recreation Commission. Devereaux will serve as the commission’s staff member, and the Parks and Recreation Department will provide support.
Devereaux said the idea for the Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission came up after a debate over conflicting uses at the Simpson’s Point Boat Launch peaked last year between recreational users and fishermen, shellfish harvesters and hunters.
At the time, the Marine Resources Committee was considering recommending the reopening of Simpson’s Point to motorized boats.
The committee’s discussion, which lasted throughout most of last summer, sparked the concerns of recreational users, who had enjoyed the boat launch as a water access point since it was closed to such vessels in 2008.
While the committee never moved forward with any recommendations, Devereaux said the clash over conflicting uses highlighted the problem with having a committee, charged with management of the town’s shellfish resources, attempting to make decisions for a wider range of constituents.
“One of the things we recognized and learned out of that was the Marine Resources Committee, as good as it is with managing shellfish and our watersheds, isn’t really constructed to handle the harbor-type stuff,” Devereaux said.
Now those kinds of issues will be handled by the River and Coastal Waters Commission.