Mooring field good idea if handled appropriately

A mooring field seems a reasonable service for a coastal city to provide, so if Beaufort can do so at a reasonable price, it should consider creating such a spot in the Beaufort River, near the Downtown Marina.

But this enterprise is not as simple as procuring state permission and a few contractors. In fact, when construction is complete, the city's work will have only just started. If it is not committed to the task that follows -- specifically, enforcing rules about who can moor there and on what conditions -- then there is little to gain from this pursuit.

The city's main interest in creating the mooring field is that it would give it more authority to manage the boats that already anchor near the marina in waters controlled by the state.

"We want to make sure we know who's out there, that they have insurance on the vessel and that they're not dumping illegally from their waste tanks," said Rick Griffin, the city's harbormaster.

Those are legitimate concerns, but along with the authority to do something about potential problems comes the responsibility to handle them.

State and federal agencies have rules to address derelict boats, impediments to navigation, discharges from vessels occupying anchorages and other problems. However, those rules haven't always been enforced to the satisfaction of local governments. With this in mind, a mooring field makes sense only if Beaufort adequately regulates it.

Passing an ordinance or two won't be enough, and this is more than a passing concern.

Beaufort has struggled to keep boaters from abusing day-dock privileges at the Downtown Marina, and along those lines, did little to enforce its unheeded parking laws until it farmed out that effort to a public-private partnership last summer.

Similarly, several shimpers continue to tie up at a town-managed dock in neighboring Port Royal, even though they are behind on their docking fees.

So along with the permitting and financing that would be part of a city proposal to construct a mooring field, Beaufort must have a plan to provide the resources necessary to enforce its rules.

To do otherwise is to spend money on a "solution" that doesn't fix the problems.