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North Florida Field Office

News Release


For Immediate Release

Date: August 1, 2003

Release #: 005-03

Media Contact: Chuck Underwood, 904/731-3332

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Decision on

Three Additional Protection Areas for Florida Manatees

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will establish three Federal protection areas in five Florida counties for the Florida (West Indian) manatee, an endangered marine mammal that inhabits the coastal and inland waterways of the southeastern United States.

The decision, which was submitted to the Federal Register yesterday, designates three areas located in Lee, Volusia, Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties as Federal manatee refuges in which watercraft will be required to operate at reduced speeds.

The Federal refuges are the Caloosahatchee River-San Carlos Bay Manatee Refuge, which includes parts of Caloosahatchee River and San Carlos Bay in Lee County; the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers Manatee Refuge, which includes parts of the Halifax River and associated water bodies in Volusia County; and the Lower St. Johns River Manatee Refuge, encompassing portions of the St. Johns River and adjacent waters in Duval, Clay, and St. Johns Counties.

"Todayís decision reflects a solid step forward in manatee protection and conservation," said Sam D. Hamilton, the Serviceís Regional Director for the Southeast, noting that establishing the three refuges will increase vital protections for the manatee while allowing reasonable use of Florida aquatic resources by its residents. "Just as important, it reflects our commitment to listen to our stakeholders and involve them in the evaluation and designation process."

According to Dave Hankla, the Serviceís Field Supervisor in Jacksonville, the Service performed a detailed analysis of the areas, which included, but was not limited to, a careful evaluation of manatee and watercraft use information, site visits, coordination with State and local regulatory experts, an economic analysis, and review of public comments.

"Our final decision reflects our efforts to integrate Stakeholder conservation, economic and resource access and use concerns into manatee conservation efforts that reflect not only the best biological and commercial data and information available, but also where possible the needs of our stakeholders at all levels," Hankla said. "Based on our assessments, we feel our final decision will have limited adverse economic impacts, adds relatively short amounts of additional travel times, and provides the needed improvement to manatee conservation."

The new manatee refuges will receive temporary buoy markers in August, and Service officials plan to begin permanent posting of the areas in September 2003.

Any authorized boating activity in the refuges can be conducted by operating watercraft at reduced speed, and maintenance activities will be allowed, subject to applicable Federal, State and local permitting requirements. Designation of manatee refuges will not eliminate waterway property owner access rights. Public and private property owners and their designees will be permitted watercraft access and allowed to maintain property and waterways if their property is located in a manatee refuge.

Publication of the Serviceís final decision on the proposed rule (68 FR 16602) fulfills one of the commitments outlined in the Stipulated Order agreed to by the Service and the Plaintiffs in Save the Manatee Club et al. Vs Ballard et al., and signed by Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia, on March 18, 2003.

The final rule is available online at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida or may be requested by mail at U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: July 2003 MPA Rule, 6620 Southpoint Drive, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958, by telephone at 904/232-2580, by fax at 904/232-2404, or by e-mail to manatee@fws.gov.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

- FWS -

Detailed location and restriction information on the new Federal manatee refuges follows.

Please refer to the Summary of Changes section of the Federal Register notice for detailed information on the differences between the final and proposed rules.


Detailed Location And Restriction Information On New Federal Manatee Refuges

Definition of "Slow" Speeds

"Slow" speed is defined as the speed at which the watercraft proceeds fully off plane and is completely settled in the water. Since watercraft of different sizes and configurations may travel at different speeds, a specific speed is not assigned. However, a watercraft is NOT proceeding at slow speed if it is - 1) on plane, (2) in the process of coming up on or coming off of plane, or (3) is creating an excessive wake. A watercraft IS proceeding at slow speed if it is fully off plane and completely settled in the water, not plowing or creating an excessive wake. Exceptions to slow speed restrictions are contained in 50 CFR 17.105 and include activities "...reasonably necessary to prevent the loss of life or property due to weather conditions or other reasonably unforseen circumstances, or to render necessary assistance to persons or property".

Federal Manatee Refuges (maps are available at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida)

Lee County - Caloosahatchee River - San Carlos Bay Manatee Refuge

We are establishing a manatee refuge in portions of the Caloosahatchee River and San Carlos Bay in Lee County (in the Southwest Region) for the purpose of regulating vessel speeds, from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad trestle, downstream to Channel Marker "93," and from Channel Marker "99" to the Sanibel Causeway. Except as provided in 50 CFR 17.105 (valid emergency situations and law enforcement), watercraft will be required to proceed as follows:

a. from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad trestle at Beautiful Island, downstream to a Channel Marker "25," a distance of approximately 1.6 km (1 mile), slow speed in the marked navigation channel from November 15 to March 31, and not more than 40 kilometers (km) per hour (25 miles per hour (mph)) in the channel from April 1 to November 14;

b. from a point 152 meters (500 feet) east of the Edison Bridge downstream to a point 152 meters (500 feet) west of the Caloosahatchee Bridge, approximately 1.1 km (0.7 miles) in length, slow speed year-round, shoreline-to-shoreline including the marked navigation channel;

c. from a point 152 meters (500 feet) west of the Caloosahatchee Bridge downstream to a point 152 meters (500 feet) northeast of the Cape Coral Bridge, a distance of approximately 10.9 km (6.8 miles), year-round, slow speed shoreline buffers extending out to a distance of approximately 402 meters (1,320 feet), as marked. Vessel speeds between these buffers (including the marked navigation channel) are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) throughout the year, with the exception of seaplanes;

d. from a point 152 meters (500 feet) northeast of the Cape Coral Bridge downstream to a point 152 meters (500) feet southwest of the Cape Coral Bridge, a distance of approximately 0.3 km (0.2 mile), slow speed outside the marked navigation channel and a speed limit of not more than 40 km per hour (25mph) in the channel, year-round;

e. from a point 152 meters (500 feet) southwest of the Cape Coral Bridge to Channel Marker "72," a distance of approximately 1.9 km (or 1.2 miles), year-round, slow speed shoreline buffers extending out to a minimum distance of approximately 402 meters (1,320 feet), as marked. Vessel speeds between these buffers (including the marked navigation channel) are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) throughout the year;

f. from Channel Marker "72" to Channel Marker "76" (in the vicinity of Redfish Point), for a distance of approximately 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in length, slow speed year-round shoreline-to-shoreline, including the marked navigation channel;

g. from Channel Marker "76" to Channel Marker "93," a distance of approximately 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles), in length, year-round, slow speed shoreline buffers extending out to a minimum distance of approximately 402 meters (1,320 feet), as marked. Vessel speeds between these buffers (including the marked navigation channel) are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) throughout the year;

h. In San Carlos Bay, from Channel Marker "99" to the Sanibel Causeway, slow speed year-round within the following limits-- a northern boundary described by the southern edge of the marked navigation channel, a line approximately 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) in length; a southern boundary described by the Sanibel Causeway (approximately 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) in length); a western boundary described by a line that connects the western end of the easternmost Sanibel Causeway island and extending northwest to Channel Marker "7" (approximately 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) in length); the eastern boundary includes the western limit of the State-designated manatee protection area (68C-22.005) near Punta Rassa (approximately 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) in length). However this area excludes the marked navigation channel from Channel Marker "99" to the Sanibel Causeway and adjacent waters, as marked.

Volusia County - Halifax and Tomoka Rivers Manatee Refuge

We are establishing a manatee refuge in portions of the Halifax River and associated water bodies in Volusia County (in the Atlantic Region) for the purpose of regulating vessel speeds, from the Volusia/Flagler county line to New Smyrna Beach. Except as provided in 50 CFR 17.105 (valid emergency situations and law enforcement), watercraft will be required to proceed as follows:

a. from the Volusia County/Flagler County line at Halifax Creek south to Channel Marker "9," a distance of approximately 11.3 km (7.0 miles) in length, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the channel;

b. from Channel Marker "9" to a point 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Granada Bridge (State Road 40) (including the Tomoka Basin), a distance of approximately 5.0 km (3.1 miles) in length, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the existing 91-meter (300-foot) buffers (and including the marked navigation channel);

c. in the Tomoka River, the current 40 km per hour (25 mph) zone approximately 1.6 km (1 mile) downstream of the I-95 bridge will be slow speed shoreline to shoreline from April 1 through August 31;

d. from 152 meters (500 feet) north to 305 meters (1,000 feet) south of the Granada Bridge (State Road 40), a distance of approximately 0.5 km (0.3 miles) in length, slow speed, year-round, channel included;

e. from a point 305 meters (1,000 feet) south of the Granada Bridge (State Road 40) to a point 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Seabreeze Bridge, a distance of approximately 6.4 km (4.0 miles) in length, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the existing 91 meter (300-foot) buffers, and including the marked navigation channel;

f. from 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Seabreeze Bridge, to 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Main Street Bridge, a distance of approximately 1 km (0.6 miles) in length, slow speed, year-round, channel included;

g. from Channel Marker "40" south of the Seabreeze Bridge to a point a minimum of 152 meters (500 feet) north, as marked, of the Dunlawton Bridge, a distance of approximately 6.6 kilometers (4.1 miles) in length, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the existing 91-meter (300-foot) buffers, and including the marked navigation channel;

h. from a minimum of 152 meters (500 feet) north, as marked, to a minimum of 152 meters (500 feet) south, as marked, of the Dunlawton Bridge, a distance of approximately 0.3 km (0.2 miles) in length, slow speed, year-round, channel included. The existing 30-meter (100-foot) shoreline buffer immediately north and west of the bridge/causeway for a distance of approximately 640 meters (2,100 feet) is increased to 91 meters (300 feet) as marked;

i. from a minimum of 152 meters (500 feet) south, as marked, of the Dunlawton Bridge to Ponce Inlet, a distance of approximately 10.5 km (6.5 miles) in length, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in waters not more restrictively designated; along the western shore of the Halifax River, a distance of approximately 3.1 km (1.9 miles), not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the waters not more restrictively designated; in Rose Bay, a distance of approximately 2.7 km (1.7 miles), not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in waters not more restrictively designated; in Turnbull Bay, a distance of approximately 3.9 km (2.4 miles), not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in waters not more restrictively designated;

j. in the Intracoastal Waterway and adjacent waters from Redland Canal to the A1A Bridge (New Smyrna Beach), for a distance of approximately 5.3 km (3.3 miles) in length, slow speed, year-round, channel included.

Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties - Lower St. Johns River Manatee Refuge

We are establishing a manatee refuge for the purpose of regulating waterborne vessel speeds in portions of the St. Johns River (in the Atlantic Region) and adjacent waters in Duval, Clay, and St. Johns Counties from Channel Marker "73" upstream to the mouth of Peterís Branch (including Doctors Lake) in Clay County on the western shore, and to the southern shore of the mouth of Julington Creek in St. Johns County on the eastern shore. Except as provided in 50 CFR 17.105 (valid emergency situations and law enforcement), watercraft will be required to proceed as follows:

a. from Channel Marker "73" upstream to the Main Street Bridge, a distance of approximately 16.8 kilometers (10.4 miles), slow speed, year-round, outside the navigation channel and not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the channel (from Channel Marker "81" to the Main Street Bridge, the channel is defined as the line of sight extending west from Channel Markers "81" and "82" to the bridge fenders of the Main Street Bridge);

b. from the Main Street Bridge to the Fuller Warren Bridge, a distance of approximately 1.6 km (or 1.0 miles) slow speed, channel included, year-round;

c. upstream of the Fuller Warren Bridge, a 213 to 305-meter (700 to 1,000-foot), slow speed, year-round, shoreline buffer to the south bank of the mouth of Peterís Branch in Clay County along the western shore (approximately 31.1 km or 19.3 miles); and in Doctors Lake in Clay County, slow speed, year-round, along a 213 to 274-meter (700 to 900-foot) shoreline buffer (approximately 20.8 km or 12.9 miles); and a 213 to 305-meter (700 to 1,000-foot), slow speed, year-round, shoreline buffer to the south bank of the mouth of Julington Creek in St. Johns County along the eastern shore (approximately 32.5 km or 20.2 miles) to a line north of a western extension of the Natureís Hammock Road North.


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Last modified January 14, 2004