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Florida Law on How New Manatee Protection Rules May Be Adopted

(Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission photo)

Florida Statute § 379.2431(2)(f) sets out the steps the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and county governments must follow when adopting rules regulating “speed and operation of motorboats for purposes of manatee protection.” Florida Statute § 379.2431(2)(g) sets out how the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission must apply protection rules, and outlines the current county-by-county geographic application of such rules. The statute’s complete language for both sections follows.



(f)1. Except for emergency rules adopted under s. 120.54, all proposed rules of the commission for which a notice of intended agency action is filed proposing to govern the speed and operation of motorboats for purposes of manatee protection shall be submitted to the counties in which the proposed rules will take effect for review by local rule review committees.

2. No less than 60 days prior to filing a notice of rule development in the Florida Administrative Weekly, as provided in s. 120.54(3)(a), the commission shall notify the counties for which a rule to regulate the speed and operation of motorboats for the protection of manatees is proposed. A county so notified shall establish a rule review committee or several counties may combine rule review committees.

3. The county commission of each county in which a rule to regulate the speed and operation of motorboats for the protection of manatees is proposed shall designate a rule review committee. The designated voting membership of the rule review committee must be comprised of waterway users, such as fishers, boaters, water skiers, other waterway users, as compared to the number of manatee and other environmental advocates. A county commission may designate an existing advisory group as the rule review committee. With regard to each committee, fifty percent of the voting members shall be manatee advocates and other environmental advocates, and fifty percent of the voting members shall be waterway users.

4. The county shall invite other state, federal, county, municipal, or local agency representatives to participate as nonvoting members of the local rule review committee.

5. The county shall provide logistical and administrative staff support to the local rule review committee and may request technical assistance from commission staff.

6. Each local rule review committee shall elect a chair and recording secretary from among its voting members.

7. Commission staff shall submit the proposed rule and supporting data used to develop the rule to the local rule review committees.

8. The local rule review committees shall have 60 days from the date of receipt of the proposed rule to submit a written report to commission members and staff. The local rule review committees may use supporting data supplied by the commission, as well as public testimony which may be collected by the committee, to develop the written report. The report may contain recommended changes to proposed manatee protection zones or speed zones, including a recommendation that no rule be adopted, if that is the decision of the committee.

9. Prior to filing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Florida Administrative Weekly as provided in s. 120.54(3)(a), the commission staff shall provide a written response to the local rule review committee reports to the appropriate counties, to the commission members, and to the public upon request.

10. In conducting a review of the proposed manatee protection rule, the local rule review committees may address such factors as whether the best available scientific information supports the proposed rule, whether seasonal zones are warranted, and such other factors as may be necessary to balance manatee protection and public access to and use of the waters being regulated under the proposed rule.

11. The written reports submitted by the local rule review committees shall contain a majority opinion. If the majority opinion is not unanimous, a minority opinion shall also be included.

12. The members of the commission shall fully consider any timely submitted written report submitted by a local rule review committee prior to authorizing commission staff to move forward with proposed rulemaking and shall fully consider any timely submitted subsequent reports of the committee prior to adoption of a final rule. The written reports of the local rule review committees and the written responses of the commission staff shall be part of the rulemaking record and may be submitted as evidence regarding the committee’s recommendations in any proceeding relating to a rule proposed or adopted pursuant to this subsection.

13. The commission is relieved of any obligations regarding the local rule review committee process created in this paragraph if a timely noticed county commission fails to timely designate the required rule review committee.

(g) In order to protect manatees or sea cows from harmful collisions with motorboats or from harassment, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is authorized, in addition to all other authority, to provide a permitting agency with comments regarding the expansion of existing, or the construction of new, marine facilities and mooring or docking slips, by the addition or construction of five or more powerboat slips. The commission shall adopt rules under chapter 120 regulating the operation and speed of motorboat traffic only where manatee sightings are frequent and the best available scientific information, as well as other available, relevant, and reliable information, which may include but is not limited to, manatee surveys, observations, available studies of food sources, and water depths, supports the conclusions that manatees inhabit these areas on a regular basis:

1. In Lee County: the entire Orange River, including the Tice Florida Power and Light Corporation discharge canal and adjoining waters of the Caloosahatchee River within 1 mile of the confluence of the Orange and Caloosahatchee Rivers.

2. In Brevard County: those portions of the Indian River within three-fourths of a mile of the Orlando Utilities Commission Delespine power plant effluent and the Florida Power and Light Frontenac power plant effluents.

3. In Indian River County: the discharge canals of the Vero Beach Municipal Power Plant and connecting waters within 11/4 miles thereof.

4. In St. Lucie County: the discharge of the Henry D. King Municipal Electric Station and connecting waters within 1 mile thereof.

5. In Palm Beach County: the discharges of the Florida Power and Light Riviera Beach power plant and connecting waters within 11/2 miles thereof.

6. In Broward County: the discharge canal of the Florida Power and Light Port Everglades power plant and connecting waters within 11/2 miles thereof and the discharge canal of the Florida Power and Light Fort Lauderdale power plant and connecting waters within 2 miles thereof. For purposes of ensuring the physical safety of boaters in a sometimes turbulent area, the area from the easternmost edge of the authorized navigation project of the intracoastal waterway east through the Port Everglades Inlet is excluded from this regulatory zone.

7. In Citrus County: headwaters of the Crystal River, commonly referred to as King’s Bay, and the Homosassa River.

8. In Volusia County: Blue Springs Run and connecting waters of the St. Johns River within 1 mile of the confluence of Blue Springs and the St. Johns River; and Thompson Creek, Strickland Creek, Dodson Creek, and the Tomoka River.

9. In Hillsborough County: that portion of the Alafia River from the main shipping channel in Tampa Bay to U.S. Highway 41.

10. In Sarasota County: the Venice Inlet and connecting waters within 1 mile thereof, including Lyons Bay, Donna Bay, Roberts Bay, and Hatchett Creek, excluding the waters of the intracoastal waterway and the right-of-way bordering the centerline of the intracoastal waterway.

11. In Collier County: within the Port of Islands, within section 9, township 52 south, range 28 east, and certain unsurveyed lands, all east-west canals and the north-south canals to the southerly extent of the intersecting east-west canals which lie southerly of the centerline of U.S. Highway 41.

12. In Manatee County: that portion of the Manatee River east of the west line of section 17, range 19 east, township 34 south; the Braden River south of the north line and east of the west line of section 29, range 18 east, township 34 south; Terra Ceia Bay and River, east of the west line of sections 26 and 35 of range 17 east, township 33 south, and east of the west line of section 2, range 17 east, township 34 south; and Bishop Harbor east of the west line of section 13, range 17 east, township 33 south.

13. In Miami-Dade County: those portions of Black Creek lying south and east of the water control dam, including all boat basins and connecting canals within 1 mile of the dam.

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