Everglades National Park Awarded Nearly $300,000 For Boat Grounding In Park Waters

A boater who ran his 72-foot craft aground in Florida Bay in Everglades National Park has agreed to pay the park $295,000 in damages. NPS photo of Florida Bay.

A boater who ran his craft aground in Everglades National Park four years ago has agreed to pay the park $295,000 to help restore damage caused to seagrass beds in Florida Bay.

The award was the result of a civil lawsuit the government filed on behalf of the park. It arose after David E. Marlow ran his boat, the 72-foot-long "Rebell Yell," aground on Arsenic Bank in the southwestern portion of Florida Bay back on February 12, 2006, the park said in a release. Mr. Marlow was en route from Snead Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast to Miami. Attempts to power the vessel off the shoal resulted in significant damage to the seagrass environment on the shallow bank, the park said, adding that this resource damage is significant as the seagrass beds serve as nurseries for lobster, crabs, shrimp and other recreational and commercially important fish and invertebrates.

The lawsuit was filed under the "Park System Resource Protection Act," which allows the National Park Service to seek compensation for injuries to park resources and use the recovered funds to restore and monitor such resources. Everglades National Park will engage in a dynamic restoration program at this site, an effort that will include filling in the large holes and planting seagrass, the park said.

"I’m very pleased that the Rebel Yell case has now been settled and that the park has secured funding to carry out necessary seagrass restoration measures in response to this significant grounding," said Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball.

Florida Bay encompasses approximately 300,000 acres of the 1.5 million acres within Everglades National Park. The entire bay bottom was designated as "wilderness" by Congress in 1978. It is included in the 1.3-million-acre Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness. The park has identified significant damage to seagrassbeds by motorboat propellers. As these damages impact wilderness character, the park is developing a seagrass restoration program as well as management strategies intended to reduce future impacts for inclusion in the park’s General Management Plan.

Park Rangers will continue their efforts to educate visitors on ways to minimize their impact on the bay bottom, as well as responding to grounded vessels and taking appropriate legal action for damage to park.

Comments

I am curious about management of underwater wilderness resources. I thought that one requirement of wilderness was no motorized traffic. I am surprised that wilderness can be damaged by propeller blades. Shouldn't the Park Service ban motorized boat traffic in wilderness areas that risk damage from such vessels? How can the Park Service justify an interpretation of the Wilderness Act that allows this sort of activity?

My guess is that this boat probably shouldn't have been there.

There are also different levels of "wilderness" as defined by the 1964 Wilderness Act. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is specifically given an exemption to motorized boating in the original Wilderness Act. There could also be "potential wilderness" designated that is managed as wilderness to the extent that it can be other than some preexisting "nonconforming use". One example would be the commercially operated Yosemite High Sierra Camps in Yosemite. I'm guessing there is some map somewhere that shows these areas to be "potential wilderness".

Another example is motorized boating by the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm within parts of Drakes Bay (Point Reyes National Seashore) that are in potential wilderness. Only the farm is allowed to do so as a preexisting "nonconforming use". In fact, they are allowed to operate their boats even during the period when public non-motorized boating is prohibited. Of course there is some controversy over this.

In this article you profiled the guilty party only as "a boater"... Really???? David Marlow happens to own, produce and sell yachts from around the world that are worth millions. He also wrote a story (Hemingway he's not) about this perilous journey in which he appears to be the hero. In my opinion he should and could have paid more. Not only for the damage but for the absolute arrogance and disregard he had after the fact.