Aside from a half-mile section of the Intracoastal nearing the Volusia County border, Flagler County’s waterways have no state or local manatee protections. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told Flagler on March 8 that it was time the county considered new rules for just such protection, particularly speed zones.
The Flagler County Commission this morning appointed a 10-member committee of boaters or “waterway users” and environmental and manatee advocates to a rules committee that will advise the state on a proposed new rule. The committee will have 60 days to forward a report to the fish and wildlife commission on whether new rules are necessary, and if so, what those rules should be. Commissioners (or other elected officials) may not interfere with the committee’s conclusions before they’re forwarded to the state regulatory agency, although two members of the committee are also mayors.
Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts threw his name in the mix as a “waterway user.” Marineland Mayor Jim Netherton, a manatee advocate, is also on the committee. Without Netherton’s application, Marineland, whose entire population could fit in a single Palm Coast mansion, would likely go unrepresented. (See the chart below for the list of applicants to the committee.)
- Florida Law on Manatee Rules
- Maps of Federal Manatee Protection Areas
- County Commission’s Background for Today’s Meeting (Click on Item 12), pdf
One of the nominee who made it onto the committee, Edward Caroe of Palm Coast, had applied to represent waterway user, according to his application. Caroe detailed a long history of boating, including teaching “intro and advanced boating courses to several thousand beginner boaters over 40+ years,” and “cruising my trawlers from New England to FL while a member of six different yacht clubs over many decades.”
Yet Caroe made it onto the committee as a manatee advocate. A county staffer said shortly after the vote that Caroe had emailed the county, switching his category from a boaters’ advocate to a manatee advocate. The distinction is key, since state law requires the rules committee to be evenly balanced between manatee advocates and boater advocates, or waterway users. “I’m a tree-hugger and an animal-hugger from way back,” Caroe said later in the day.
To environmentalists and manatee advocates, new rules may be overdue, especially in light of future development that will add more slips and boaters along the Intracoastal. They’re also overdue in light of manatee fatalities in Flagler: there were five such fatalities in 2009, one of which from a boat. (There were 30 manatee fatalities in Volusia, four of them from boats. Volusia is more of a manatee destination than Flagler, where Manatees tend only to travel through.)
But the commission’s request has recreational and commercial boaters worried. New rules may mean new restrictions, which, as boaters see it, could crimp their leisure or money-making activities. Speed zones don’t prevent either leisure or money-making: they merely slow down what’s permitted anyway. But boaters see such zones as speed bumps on their turf.
In his letter to the Flagler County Commission triggering the rules process, Fish and Wildlife’s R. Kipp Frohlich said “there is no predetermined outcome”–a common, if mostly formal, pledge from regulatory agencies. “Working with the LRRC,” Frohlich added, referring to the Local Rule Review Committee the state is ordering the county to appoint, “may in fact lead us to develop a draft rule for our commissioners to consider, but alternatively we may conclude upon further analysis that no additional rules are warranted.”
State law outlines how new speed zones may be adopted. (Read the relevant portion of the law.) Flagler must now appoint a 10-member Local Rule Review Committee that’s half made up of “waterway users” and half made up of “manatee advocates and other environmental advocates,” in the law’s wording. The law leaves unaddressed the possibility that an environmentalist may also be a boater, or that boating and manatee advocacy are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The law also leaves unclear how environmentalists and boaters are to be so defined, leaving plenty of room for the appointing body–in this case the county commission–to make subjective determinations based on applicants’ own descriptions of themselves.
Neither Flagler commissioners nor Flagler mayors, who spoke of the mandated rules committee at a League of Cities meeting in April, were thrilled by the strictures–either the fact that rules were being proposed, or that the timeline, 60 days, left the county little room to maneuver, and no room to make a final determination on the rules: that will be up to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. While Flagler’s rule review committee is no more than an advisory board, its conclusions, once adopted, may not be amended or adulterated either by the county commission or by any of the municipalities represented on the committee. That, too, did not sit well with elected officials. But the provision is designed to reduce undue interference from elected officials who may skew the committee’s findings after the fact and either politicize the final report or make the committee’s 50-50 balance between boaters and environmentalists irrelevant.
The county set out the following criteria for representation:
- Flagler County/at-large: two waterway users and two manatee advocates.
- Palm Coast: one waterway user, one manatee advocate
- Flagler Beach: one waterway user, one manatee advocate
- Marineland: one manatee advocate
- Beverly Beach: one waterway user
Not including nominations that may be handed in today, four applicants applied to fill the Flagler County/at-large slot (two waterway users and two manatee advocates), nine from Palm Coast (only one of whom is a manatee advocate), one from Marineland (a manatee advocate), and four from Flagler Beach, three of whom are manatee advocates. No one from Beverly Beach applied.
Boaters and Manatees:
Local Rule Review Committee Applicants
|Flagler County||Waterway User||David Carter|
|Flagler County||Waterway User||Richard McCleery||Appointed|
|Flagler County||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||S. Laureen Kornel||Appointed|
|Flagler County||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||Virginia Tee||Appointed|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User(**)||Edward Caroe||Appointed|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Patrick Slattery|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Chris Herrera||Appointed|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Jonathan Netts||Appointed|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Kevin Peck|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Chris J. Vorndran||Appointed|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Norman Mugford|
|Palm Coast||Waterway User||Larry Madama|
|Palm Coast||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||Robert Knapp|
|Beverly Beach||Waterway User||No name submitted|
|Marineland||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||Jim Netherton*||Appointed|
|Flagler Beach||Waterway User||Stan Ksyniak||Appointed|
|Flagler Beach||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||Linda Provencher*||Appointed|
|Flagler Beach||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||C.M. "Hap" Cameron, Jr.|
|Flagler Beach||Manatee/Environmental Advocate||Lawrence Greenberg|
(*) Netherton and Provencher have been nominated by their respective cities as their government representatives.
(**)Applied as a waterway user; switched camp by email before the vote, according to Flagler County staff.