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Front Page » Government » Coast Guard weighs regulations for boat race at Miami Marine Stadium

Coast Guard weighs regulations for boat race at Miami Marine Stadium

Written by on March 6, 2018
Coast Guard weighs regulations for boat race at Miami Marine Stadium

The Coast Guard is considering a local regulatory plan for a speed boat race planned for April in the historic Miami Marine Stadium basin of Virginia Key.

As part of the process, the public is encouraged to comment on the event via a federal website.

As of Tuesday, three comments had been posted, two specifically objecting to the event being held in the basin and a third noting that the basin is a refuge for manatees and dolphins.

Comments and related material must be received by April 2. The website is and the event docket number is USCG-2017-1076.

A summary of the proposed rulemaking says the Coast Guard proposes to establish a special local regulation (SLR) for the Miami Grand Prix of the Sea.

“This action is necessary to provide for the safety of the public, spectators, vessels, and marine environment from potential hazards during high-speed, offshore-style boat and Personal Water Craft (PWC) races during the Miami Grand Prix of the Sea,” it reads.

The SLR would establish two regulated areas; a safety zone and no anchoring zone. Non-participant persons and vessels would be prohibited from entering, transiting, anchoring in, or remaining within the safety zone unless authorized by the captain of the Port Miami. All vessels would be prohibited from anchoring in the no anchoring zone.

Powerboat P1 USA LLC laid out its plan for the Miami P1 Grand Prix of the Sea at a meeting last week of the Virginia Key Advisory Board.

Plans filed with the City of Miami – which owns the stadium and basin – show the event is planned with setup Friday, April 20, and racing Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22.

The event will include power boat races and personal water craft (Jet Ski) races. The boats are 24- to 28-footers with stock Mercury outboard motors.

The organization said the Miami event will open its 2018 P1 USA Championship racing season, will be televised and will be free to view.

The advisory board supported the event.

A few residents spoke against holding the event in the basin, saying it is not the appropriate place for such a high-impact activity.

One was Joyce Landry, a rower who has used the basin for years. She was one of the first to post her opposition on the Coast Guard website, saying: “I am opposed to the use of the Virginia Key Basin for the Miami Grand Prix of the Seas. There hasn’t been a speed boat race in the basin for 28 years and the environment has changed dramatically since then. The area has become a sanctuary and breeding ground for Great Blue Heron, dolphins, manatees, rays, tarpon and other wildlife. Because of the no-wake zone and low impact of the area, the wildlife have adopted this area and I think it is a mistake to allow this race to continue. The basin should be preserved for passive water sports only.”

The comment of Steven Leidner, the Sierra Club’s representative recently appointed to the Virginia Key Advisory Board, began with the word: “NO!”

He listed 10 reasons including that the basin is environmentally sensitive, is best utilized for non-motorized boating, the boat show already limits public access to the basin for multiple months, “safety of hovering helicopter above crowds and effect on wildlife/ Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife area that abuts basin,” the race would establish a precedent for more motorized basin usage, and more.

Mr. Leidner was at the Feb. 27 advisory board meeting, where the vote to support the race was 6 to 1. Mr. Leidner told Miami Today he abstained as he is a new member and didn’t feel he had all the facts.

As we reported last week, Peter Ehrlich voted to oppose the event.

Robert Mahoney posted a comment on the website about the special nature of the basin: “The Marine Stadium basin eco-system has restored itself – with increased seagrass and other marine resources. The State of Florida designated the Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area along the basin shoreline. The Marine Stadium basin is a refuge for manatees and dolphins, which are frequently seen in the area.”

On the website is a Coast Guard National Environmental Policy Act Record of Environmental Consideration. It says that as a condition of the permit, the sponsor agreed to protection measures designed to mitigate impacts to marine life and seagrass.

Among the protection measures is a requirement for aerial, on-water and landside manatee observers during the event with the authority to halt the race should a manatee or sea turtle come within certain distances of the event.

“Based on a phone conversation with Miami-Dade County Environmental Resources Management (DERM), the agency is likely to issue an Administrative Authorization based on the assumption the event will have ‘no environmental impacts’. The Administrative Authorization will carry conditions to mitigate concerns over manatee protection,” the record says.

Another measure requires a 5-foot clearance between a vessel’s propeller and sea bottom. Depth within the basin ranges from 7 to 12 feet. Furthermore, safety and no-anchoring zones outside the basin will prohibit spectator vessels from anchoring over seagrass during the event.

“In an email dated Feb. 14, 2018, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated they ‘would not expect the racing activity to impact seagrasses considering they are able to maintain 5 feet from the prop and the bottom and operating in 7-9 feet of water,’” the record says.

The document also notes: “The Miami Marine Stadium was built in 1963 specifically for water sporting events and powerboat races.”

The city closed the stadium in 1992 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, but has launched a multi-million-dollar restoration project.

6 Responses to Coast Guard weighs regulations for boat race at Miami Marine Stadium

  1. Delvys Alvarez

    March 7, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Please do not go forward with this. Over the last 25+ years the environment has greatly changed and the wildlife has adapted and flourished. Allowing the races will most certainly have a negative impact on the area. Aside from harming the vegetation, more than likely, there will be wildlife casualties. It is impossible to mitigate for all the potential damage.

  2. Tina Jackson

    March 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    A message for those opposed to this race:

    I am a self-labeled conservationist. I hold a B.S. in both biology and marine science from Jacksonville University and I am currently working on my masters of Fisheries and Aquatic Science from UF. I have 10 years of experience working with marine natural resources and species. I have worked as a VOLUNTEER marine observer for this organization for over two years. This organization hosts races in many other coastal cities in Florida. There is a lot of foresight and coordination between multiple agencies prior to these races. Prior to each race, the boaters must attend a mandatory educational meeting with the lead observer. During this meeting, they are educated about the specifics on the race area, including any sensitive habitat the animals that inhabit the area. They are informed of the protocols to follow in the event an animal is sighted. Each race has a team of marine observers, some on boats, some on land, some on balconies, and one or two in the air (helicopter). These observers are all volunteers that have either degrees, experience, or training to qualify them as a marine observer through FWC criteria. They are not employees of P1 nor do they receive compensation. Most of these observers have worked together for many races and they have a system that works. If an animal is observed, it is tracked by the observers. If it comes within a certain distance of the race course, the race gets temporarily shut down until the animal is out of the course. Observers also monitor for an hour before the races start, and 30 minutes after the races end as an extra precaution and to make sure no animals were injured. During most races, local Police Departments, FWC and Coast Guard boats also help to patrol the race area to ensure compliance with environmental and race regulations. In addition to all of this, this organization is raising funds to start an environmental non-profit to travel with the races and provide environmental education to children, help educate locals about the measure taken to protect wildlife during these races, clean-up the beaches after races, and to recruit new volunteer observers. I too was initially concerned about the thought of a high-speed race in a shallow marine environment. However, after participating I can honestly say that the race organizers and the observer team are advocates of the wildlife, and work to keep both wildlife and boaters safe. A boat strike could hurt man, animal and boat. We don’t want that. Another thing to note is that these races usually only occur once a year in a given city, it’s an annual sort of thing most of the time.

  3. Cecile Sanchez

    March 7, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Of course marine life will be severely impacted! We just finished the Boat Show stint. Manatees, tarpons, etc. have returned to their “safe” harbor and again another event to harm or scare them away?! Please say no.

  4. Valerie Robbin

    March 7, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    As you know the manatee like warm water and often frequent the the basin during winter months. The comments Tina Jackson made as far as all the protections put in place to warn of any animals or marine life coming too close to the race is very impressive. Have you also considered if there is harm to any marine life, how and where will they be taken to recover if there is an accident? Once the race begins, I would think the water will be stirred up and take several minutes to clear. Is everyone sure they will see the marine life clearly enough to react quickly.
    In my opinion, it’s not worth taking the risk of one manatee or any marine life being harmed just so people can have an exciting event to watch.
    I am opposed to having the race.

  5. John Murillo

    March 7, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    This basin has been the breeding ground for many passive boat, canoe, kayak, and sailing craft training for world class rowers, paddlers and sailors. Weekends are the days most working class people have to enjoy this area with safety. By bringing in power craft there will be an affect on the environment and the wild life that are seen by the people that use the basin. There are other water ways that can be used for power craft that would be much safer rather than making the marine stadium the venue for such activity. Please do not allow this only sanctuary used by many athletes and public to be used for power boats.

  6. Henry D Lane

    April 15, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    Please do not hold this event. This proposal is neither a community need, a rowing club want, any sailboaters’ desire and certainly not satisfying any environmentalist benefit nor do anything other than give some some cheap entertainment. So its value is at best limited and its benefit almost non-existant. If this is a money-making venture, it does not consider the impact on people, water and wildlife.

    Anyone living on his or her boat in the Marine Stadium anchorage would likely not favor this idea. How could they? The event would bring noise, traffic, potential danger, disruption and turbulence to a relatively tranquil sanctuary.

    The Miami Boat Show in Marine Stadium was just one example how the anchorage disturbed and disrupted became by motor boats. While the boat show was relatively calm with the addition of pilings, barges, docks, cranes and huge expensive luxury yachts as compared to your proposed races. Of course, no mention of potential fuel spills, noise pollution, environment impact, impact on manatee and fish populations, The promises and declarations about safety and not disturbing the environment or affecting the sea life are delusional.

    Nothing about the impact, expense, and effort this event would have on boat owners moving their vessels to another location. Nothing about recommending boats re-anchoring safely somewhere else. Could it be they didn’t consider these boaters or that there are few nearby safe places. Maybe using this racing as a reason to encourage this boating community to move somewhere else? All possible motives.

    Since I moved to Marine Stadium area on my boat this is the first year boaters have been ushered out. Since its original purpose died a number of years ago the waters have been redefined by boaters, rowers, birds, manatees and sea life….they have all been allowed to inhabit these waters. Yes, this area has occasionally been used as a recreation spot, but never before have boaters been told to move away.

    For most of the last three years I have lived on this body of water without much human threat. Except for the occasional weekend booze cruises or erratic jet skiers, the water has been a calm and peaceful rowers’ paradise. For the Coast Guard to alter this area for some promotional and profitable venture is both unconscionable as well as irresponsible – They might as well advertise Let’s alter a tranquil body of water for the soulless purpose of racing powerboats and jet skis. Let’s not bother to consider any impact on wild life, rowers, seawater or live-a-board populations.

    This potential disturbance will affect the quality not only the wildlife above and below the surface, The noise alone will challenge any sensitivity. As a boat owner anchored in the anchorage, I feel this powerboat event does nothing to preserve the integrity of this body of water.