For Immediate Release
November 9, 1998

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
Barry Stieglitz


In the interest of protecting human health on Big Pine Key, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has notified the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority that it will waive review of requests by local residents in existing homes using well water to connect to existing Authority water lines.

The Service previously reviewed requests on a case-by-case basis and provided recommendations to the Authority concerning potential impacts to the Federally endangered Key deer.

"The risks to human health and well-being from the salt water and bacterial contamination of well water on Big Pine Key as a result of Hurricane Georges is of great concern to all of us, " said Service Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton. Recognizing the seriousness of this situation, he said, "...we want to help expedite the process for residents occupying an existing residential structure on Big Pine Key to hook up to clean water."

The Service emphasized in a letter to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority that this blanket waiver of review of these requests doesn't relieve individuals from complying with other existing State, county or other government agency requirements that protect the Key deer. For example, installation of new water lines that would cross the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge would still be subject to a compatibility review by the refuge.

The Service expressed particular concern that the intent of Monroe County's Rate of Growth Ordinance to manage development of Big Pine Key not be compromised as a result of the blanket waiver. The Service has received assurances from the county that running water lines into areas currently not connected to Authority aqueducts will not give owners of vacant lots in these areas additional points toward development under the County's Rate of Growth Ordinance point system.

The idea to waive the reviews came from local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees concerned about their neighbors' health and safety.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 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.


Release #: R98-107

1998 News Releases

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