News Releases

Public input sought on proposed manatee protection zones in Flagler Co.

News Release

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291

(Back to Commission meeting news)

A proposal for manatee protection zones on portions of the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler County is ready for public input, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced Thursday.

Under the proposed FWC rule, there would be 2.7 miles of new slow-speed zones on the 18.6 miles of Intracoastal Waterway channel within the county. This would be for only four months of the year. Manatee protection zones are proposed for three areas: near Hammock Bridge in Palm Coast; near Flagler Beach from the Highway 100 bridge north to the Lehigh Canal area; and in the vicinity of Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area. The public can view the proposed rule at (click on "Rulemaking").

"Flagler County is a good example of all stakeholders and all parties coming on board trying to get a good outcome with good protections for manatees," said Commission Vice Chairman Kenneth Wright.

At least one public hearing on the manatee rule will be held in Flagler County, and notice of the proposed rule will be published.

All proposed manatee protection zones would be in effect only from May 1 through Labor Day, reflecting the times when manatees are most likely to frequent the area and the risks to manatees increase due to higher levels of boat traffic. 

"It is the goal of the manatee program to identify areas where manatees are at significant risk and determine if steps can be taken to reduce that risk," said Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC's Imperiled Species section. "It also was important to collaborate with many stakeholders on the proposed Flagler manatee protection zones to make sure we took into account the impacts on boating and the local economy."

FWC biologists worked closely with Flagler County staff, local municipalities, local businesses, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Enterprise Florida and the Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to discuss protection needs and to help identify and evaluate potential impacts that protection zones could have on local businesses. Several changes were made to reduce potential impacts.

The proposed rule was brought to the June 2011 Commission meeting, where commissioners asked FWC staff to continue working with Flagler County staff to reach greater consensus. Since June, FWC staff has met with the county several times, and the proposed rule was modified to reduce the extent of the protection zones.

"During summertime, when the proposed manatee protection zones would be in effect, the time needed for a boater to travel the entire length of the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler County would increase by about 15 minutes," Frohlich said.

After public feedback, the Commission plans to take up the rule again at a meeting in 2012.

FWC Facts:
Navigation charts identify seagrass beds as light green or marked as "grs" on the chart.

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