(1) An artificial reef program is created within the commission to enhance saltwater opportunities and to promote proper management of fisheries resources associated with artificial reefs for the public interest. Under the program, the commission may provide grants and financial and technical assistance to coastal local governments, state universities, and nonprofit corporations qualified under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code for the siting and development of artificial reefs as well as for monitoring and evaluating such reefs and their recreational, economic, and biological effectiveness. The commission is authorized to accept title, on behalf of the state, to vessels for use in the artificial reef program as offshore artificial reefs. The program may be funded from state, federal, and private contributions.
(2) The commission may adopt by rule procedures for submitting an application for financial assistance and criteria for allocating available funds.
(3) The commission may adopt by rule criteria for siting, constructing, managing, and evaluating the effectiveness of artificial reefs placed in state or adjacent federal waters and criteria implementing the transfer of vessel titles to the state for use as an offshore artificial reef.
(4) The commission may adopt by rule criteria for determining the eligibility of nonprofit corporations qualified under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to apply for and receive funds available for artificial reef development or evaluation. The criteria must include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) The corporation must show proof that it is a nonprofit corporation qualified under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
(b) The corporation must state in its articles of incorporation or bylaws that one of its objectives is the development or monitoring of artificial reefs.
(5) The commission’s artificial reef program shall track all artificial-reef-development activities statewide, and maintain a computer database of these activities for the public interest and to facilitate long-range planning and coordination within the commission and among local governments.
(6) It is unlawful for any person to:
(a) Place artificial-reef-construction materials in state waters outside zones permitted under the terms and conditions defined in any artificial-reef permits issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers or by the Department of Environmental Protection.
(b) Store, possess, or transport on or across state waters any materials reasonably suited for artificial-reef construction and stored in a manner providing ready access for use and placement as an artificial reef, unless a valid cargo manifest issued by the commission or a commission-certified inspector is onboard the transporting vessel. The manifest will serve as authorization to use a valid permitted site or land-based staging area, will validate that the type of artificial-reef construction material being transported is permissible for use at the permitted site, and will describe and quantify the artificial-reef material being transported. The manifest will also include the latitude and longitude coordinates of the proposed deployment location, the valid permit number, and a copy of the permit conditions for the permitted site. The manifest must be available for inspection by any authorized law enforcement officer or commission employee.
(7)(a) An initial violation of subsection (6) is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A subsequent violation of subsection (6) which is committed within 12 months after a previous violation of that subsection is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. (b) If a violation of subsection (6) occurs, a law enforcement officer may terminate a vessel’s voyage and order the vessel operator to return immediately to port. Failure or refusal to comply with an order to return to port constitutes a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. The vessel operator must immediately dispose of the materials on shore according to applicable waste disposal laws. (c) If, at the time of the violation, the vessel that is involved in the violation:
1. Is moored at a land-based facility, the registered owner of the vessel is responsible for the violation.
2. Is underway or anchored, the captain or operator of the vessel and the registered owner of the vessel are jointly responsible for the violation.
(d) In addition to the penalties imposed in this subsection, the commission shall assess civil penalties of up to $5,000 against any person convicted of violating subsection (6) and may seek the suspension or revocation of the vessel registration, existing reef-construction permits, or other state marine licenses held by the violator. For the purposes of this section, conviction includes any judicial disposition other than acquittal or dismissal.
(8) The Legislature finds that a statewide matching grant program to secure and place United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) and United States Navy decommissioned vessels in state or federal waters seaward of the state as artificial reefs would be of great benefit to Floridians in promoting ecotourism associated with recreational diving and fishing in Florida. Therefore, the Legislature authorizes the planning and development of a statewide matching grant program as described in this subsection to be administered by the commission. The program will be implemented subject to appropriations. The objectives in establishing the program are to:
(a) Assist in reducing the pressures on natural coral reefs in state or federal waters seaward of the state and increase the opportunities for recreational diving and fishing.
(b) Provide a mechanism through which counties and municipalities that are permitted to place vessels in state or federal waters seaward of the state as artificial reefs can apply for and receive state matching grants for the placement of decommissioned MARAD and United States Navy vessels. Funds may be used for cleaning, preparing, towing, and sinking of such decommissioned vessels.
(c) Provide state funds that would be matched with local funds, federal funds, and funds from local businesses.
(d) Establish criteria to determine eligibility for such state matching funds.
(e) Assist counties and municipalities with the donation and transfer application for United States Navy and MARAD decommissioned vessels available for use as artificial reefs in accordance with MARAD application evaluation criteria.
(f) Develop a master plan for the purposes of maximizing the number and type of vessels to be placed in state or federal waters seaward of the state that provides for the location of vessels in the most geographically effective and beneficial manner.
(g) Establish and promote standards for the placement of MARAD and United States Navy decommissioned vessels in state or federal waters seaward of the state, consistent with current environmental standards and the mandate of s. 3516 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 and the 2006 publication, “National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs,” published jointly by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Maritime Administration, which emphasized minimization of the release of harmful substances into the environment while decommissioned vessels are at anchorage and are undergoing disposal processes.
(h) Provide for and receive interagency comments from the agencies responsible for the permitting of artificial reefs and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, allowing for a review period consistent with MARAD and United States Navy application deadlines.
(i) Establish a United States military vessel component as a seventh theme for Florida’s Maritime Heritage Trail to promote Florida’s nature-based tourism and heritage tourism.
(j) Provide for title of decommissioned vessels to be transferred to the state.