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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection Areas for West Indian Manatees


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 1, 2003

Contact:
Chuck Underwood, 904-232-2580 ext. 109
Christine Eustis, 404-679-7287

Public Comments Invited

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

Under the proposal, which was submitted to the Federal Register yesterday, the three areas located in Lee, Volusia, Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties would be designated manatee refuges. The proposal would require watercraft to operate at reduced speeds within the three areas, but waterborne activities such as swimming and diving would not be restricted. In addition, waterway access would not be affected by the rule.

"Collisions with boats and other human-caused mortality continue to be the greatest immediate threat to the long-term conservation of the manatee, and we must take additional steps to protect the species," said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Regional Director for the Southeast Region. "We will continue to work very closely with the State and other stakeholders in finalizing these designations."

"Reducing the ‘take’ of manatees has always been, and continues to be, our primary focus in developing and implementing these conservation measures," Hamilton added. "Reducing ‘take’ is a key element in the long-term recovery of this species."

The proposed refuges are the San Carlos Bay Refuge, which includes parts of Caloosahatchee River and San Carlos Bay in Lee County; the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers Refuge, which includes parts of the Halifax River and associated water bodies in Volusia County; and the Lower St. Johns River Refuge, encompassing portions of the St. Johns River and adjacent waters in Duval, Clay, and St. Johns Counties. Today’s proposed action would complement earlier actions taken by the Service to protect manatees. In November of 2002, the Service established four manatee sanctuaries and nine manatee refuges in eight counties throughout Florida.

The proposed rule is available online or may be requested by mail at U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Proposed 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 Service encourages all interested stakeholders to comment on the proposed designations. Comments are particularly sought concerning: (1) the reasons why any of these areas should or should not be designated as manatee refuges, including data that support any changes; (2) current or planned activities in the subject areas and their possible effects on manatees; (3) any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the proposed designations; (4) potential adverse effects to the manatee associated with designating manatee protection areas for the species; (5) any actions that could be considered in lieu of, or in conjunction with, the proposed designations that would provide comparable or improved manatee protection; and (6) suggested modifications to the proposed refuge boundaries and reasons for these suggested modifications.

All comments on the proposed rule must be received within 60-days of the proposed rule's Federal Register publication date. (Comment period ends June 2, 2003 - Updated)

In addition to accepting written comments, the Service has scheduled three formal public hearings for the following locations:

Ft. Myers, FL - Tuesday, May 13, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Harborside Convention Hall, 1375 Monroe St.;

Daytona Beach, FL - Wednesday, May 14, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ocean Center, 101 N. Atlantic Ave.; and

Jacksonville, FL - Thursday, May 15, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The University Center, University of North Florida campus, 4567 St. Johns Bluff Rd. South.

Written comments may be mailed, hand-delivered, faxed, or submitted electronically. Please mail or deliver comments to the address or fax number listed above. Comments submitted electronically should be embedded in the body of the e-mail message itself or attached as a text-file (DOS), and should not use special characters and encryption. Please include "Attn: Proposed MPA Rule," your full name, return address, and, if appropriate, your company, government agency, or organization you represent, in your e-mail message. Comments submitted to manatee@fws.gov will receive an automated response confirming receipt of your message.

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 540 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 -

 

Definition of "Slow" and "Idle" Speeds

"Idle" speed is defined as the minimum speed necessary to maintain watercraft steerage.

"Slow" speed is defined as the speed in 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.

Federal Manatee Refuges (Maps are available at http://northflorida.fws.gov/Manatee/manatees.htm)

Lee County - Caloosahatchee River - San Carlos Bay Manatee Refuge

We are proposing to establish a manatee refuge in 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 for valid emergencies and law enforcement actions as provided in 50 CFR 17.105, watercraft will be required to proceed as follows:

a. from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad trestle at Beautiful Island, downstream to a point 152 meters (500 feet) east of the Edison Bridge, a distance of approximately 7.2 km (4.5 miles), 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 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, in shoreline buffers extending from the shoreline out to a distance of approximately 300 feet from the marked navigation channel. (In any location where the distance from the shoreline to within approximately 91 meters (300 feet) of the near side of the channel is less than 0.4 km (0.25 mile), the slow speed buffer will extend to the edge of the marked navigation channel). Vessel speeds between these buffers (including the marked navigation channel) are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) year round;

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 year-round, shoreline-to-shoreline including the marked navigation channel;

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), slow speed year-round, in shoreline buffers extending out from the shoreline to a distance of approximately 91 meters (300 feet) from the marked navigation channel. (In any location where the distance from the shoreline to within approximately 91 meters (300 feet) of the near side of the channel is less than 1/4 mile, the slow speed buffer will extend to the edge of the marked navigation channel.). Vessel speeds between these buffers (including the marked navigation channel) are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) year round.

f. from Channel Marker "72" to Channel Marker "82" (in the vicinity of Redfish Point), for a distance of approximately 3.1 km (1.9 miles) in length, slow speed year-round shoreline-to-shoreline, including the marked navigation channel;

g. from Channel Marker "82" to Channel Marker "93," a distance of approximately 3.9 km (2.4 miles), in length, slow speed year-round, shoreline buffers extending out to a distance of approximately 91 meters (300 feet) from the marked navigation channel. In any location where the distance from the shoreline to within approximately 91 meters (300 feet) of the near side of the channel is less than 0.4 km (0.25 mile), the slow speed buffer will extend to the edge of the marked navigation channel. Vessel speeds between these buffers, including the marked navigation channel, are limited to not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) year round.

h. from Channel Marker "99" to the Sanibel Causeway, slow speed year-round in San Carlos Bay within the following limits: a northern boundary described by the southern edge of the marked navigation channel, a line approximately 2.9 km (1.8 miles) in length; a southern boundary described by the Sanibel Causeway (approximately 1.9 km or 1.2 miles in length); a western boundary described by a line that connects the western end of the eastern most Sanibel Causeway island and extending northwest to the western shoreline of Merwin Key (approximately 3.1 km or 1.9 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 km or 1.8 miles in length). Speeds are unrestricted in the channel and bay waters to the west of this area year round.

Volusia County - Halifax and Tomoka Rivers Manatee Refuge

We are proposing to establish a manatee refuge in 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 for valid emergencies and law enforcement actions as provided in 50 CFR 17.105, 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), slow speed, year-round outside the marked channel with 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), slow speed, year-round, in 305-meter (1,000-foot) minimum buffers along both shorelines with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the buffers (and including the marked navigation channel);

c. in the Tomoka River, all waters upstream of the US 1 bridge, a distance of approximately 7.2 km ( 4.5 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; from the US 1 bridge downstream to Latitude 29° 19' 00", a distance of approximately 2.1 km (1.3 miles) in length, idle speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; from Latitude 29° 19' 00" downstream to the confluence of Strickland Creek and the Tomoka River, and including Strickland, Thompson, and Dodson creeks, a combined distance of approximately 9.7 km (6 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; from the confluence of Strickland Creek and the Tomoka River downstream to the mouth of the Tomoka River, a distance of approximately 1.4 km (0.9 miles), idle speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline;

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), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline;

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), slow speed, year-round, in 305-meter (1,000-foot) minimum buffers along both shorelines with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the buffers, including the marked navigation channel;

f. from 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Seabreeze Bridge, to Channel Marker "40," a distance of approximately 3.7 km (2.3 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline;

g. from Channel Marker "40" to a point 152 meters (500 feet) north of the Dunlawton Bridge, a distance of approximately 14.5 km (9 miles), slow speed, year-round, in 305-meter (1,000-foot) minimum buffers along both shorelines with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in areas between the buffers, including the marked navigation channel;

h. from 152 meters (500 feet) north to 152 meters (500 feet) south of the Dunlawton Bridge, a distance of approximately 0.3 km (0.2 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline;

i. from 152 meters (500 feet) south of the Dunlawton Bridge to Ponce Inlet, a distance of approximately 10.5 km (6.5 miles), slow speed, year-round outside of marked channels with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the channel; in Wilbur Bay, a distance of approximately 2.7 km (1.7 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; along the western shore of the Halifax River, a distance of approximately 3.1 km (1.95 miles), slow speed year-round, with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the marked channels; in Rose Bay, a distance of approximately 2.7 km (1.7 miles), slow speed year-round, with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the marked channels; in all waters of Mill Creek, Tenmile Creek, and Dead End Creek, a combined distance of approximately 5.1 km (3.2 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; in Turnbull Bay, a distance of approximately 3.9 km (2.4 miles), slow speed year-round outside the marked channels, with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the marked channels; in Spruce Creek, for a distance of approximately 5.6 km (3.5 miles), shoreline to shoreline, April 1 to August 31, slow speed, and from September 1 through March 31, not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph);

j. in waters north of Ponce Inlet, between Live Oak Point and Channel Marker "2", a distance of approximately 2.9 km (1.8 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline; in waters adjacent to Ponce Inlet, slow speed, year-round outside of the marked navigation channel and other marked access channels, with not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the marked channels; in waters within Ponce Inlet, speeds are restricted to not more than 48 km per hour (30 mph);

k. in the Intracoastal Waterway from Redland Canal to the A1A Bridge (New Smyrna Beach), for a distance of approximately 5.3 km (3.3 miles), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline.

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

We are proposing to establish 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 Reddie Point upstream to the mouth of Peter’s 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 for valid emergencies and law enforcement actions as provided in 50 CFR 17.105, watercraft will be required to proceed as follows:

a. from Reddie Point upstream to the Main Street Bridge, a distance of approximately 11.6 km (or 7.2 miles), slow speed, year-round, outside the marked navigation channel and not more than 40 km per hour (25 mph) in the marked channel (from Channel Marker "81" to the Main Street Bridge, the channel is defined as the line of sight extending west from Channel Markers "80" and "81" to the center span 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 mile), slow speed, year-round, shoreline to shoreline;

c. upstream of the Fuller Warren Bridge, in a 305-meter (1,000-foot), shoreline buffer to the south bank of the mouth of Peter’s Branch in Clay County along the western shore (approximately 31.1 km or 19.3 miles), slow speed year-round; and in Doctors Lake in Clay County, slow speed, year-round, along a 274-meter (900-foot) shoreline buffer (approximately 20.8 km or 12.9 miles); and in a 305-meter (1,000-foot) 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), slow speed, year-round.


Manatee Mar '03 Proposed Rule
Manatee Mar '03 Proposed Rule Fact Sheet
Manatee Mar '03 Proposed Rule FAQs
Formal Public Hearing Schedule
Map Index
Manatee Information


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://southeast.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/.



NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.

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Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

   
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