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Boat-Dock Permits Revoked, Flagler Re-Ignites Urgency to Finish Manatee Protection Plan

| August 17, 2015

flagler county manatee protection plan

Looking for the protection plan. (Gui Carvalho)

Almost a decade after first hearing from state and federal officials that Flagler County needs to develop a manatee protection plan, the county has still not approved one: on Monday, the county administration submitted a draft plan to commissioners for the first time, even though the plan has already been forwarded to federal officials.

The administration is now in a hurry to get the plan approved and an additional 0.5 miles of manatee-protection speed zones added to the existing 5.27 miles along Flagler’s portion of the Intracoastal Waterway. The absence of regulation has suspended the permitting of all but single-family boat slips (that is, all boat dock applications for five or more docks at a time.)

“They’ve suspended every single permit in Flagler County right now,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said, referring to the federal government, which permits the docks through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pending the additional half-mile speed zone. That zone would be added to the area  around the mouth of the Lehigh Canal.

Commissioners expressed a bit of frustration with the delays and the manner in which the issue is again arising. “I just got to see this this morning,” Revels said of the proposed plan. She had not had time to read it through: it’s 120 pages long.

“I thought we were done with this two or three years ago, and yet here we are,” Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said.

He stressed that manatee deaths from boats have not been an issue locally, at least not in the last few years. “We’ve created the zones two or three years ago and there’s been nothing reported to Flagler County as far as manatee deaths,” from boats, McLaughlin said.

Coffey also wanted the commission to approve a letter to federal officials to show the county’s “good faith” that it intends to complete the work and create the additional speed zone. Commissioners were set to approve that letter in a special meeting immediately following the 1 p.m. workshop.

“Let’s just do what they want and get it on,” Commissioner George Hanns said.

The matter chafed for commissioners because of its history, and their impression that it had been resolved, particularly through the creation of a commission-appointed advisory committee five years ago to recommend what, if any, manatee-protection rules were necessary.

In 2006—when Flagler was the fastest-growing county in the nation—state and federal officials notified Flagler that because of the increasing population of the county and increasing manatee deaths, permits for boat slips on the Intracoastal Waterway were put on hold. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission pushed the county to develop a manatee protection plan and speed zones along 5.4 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway. In 2011, the permits were issued, but another project was started on the Lehigh Canal that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped for lack of proper protection there. That suspension affected all boat-slip applications of five docks or more.

The manatee protection plan itself has yet to be finished and approved by federal officials, beyond some “positive feedback” the county received, Tim Telfer, the county’s chief environmental planner, said. That draft plan went to federal officials without county commission approval: the commission got its first look at that draft today. (“I apologize for the late delivery of the management protection plan to the board of county commissioners,” Telfer said.)

Palm Coast and Flagler Beach can decline to be part of the protection plan, but they would then have to have their own plan—and each boat slip permit request would have to go through its own rigorous analysis.

Is there a point in time where we can come back and talk about this, since we haven’t read it?” Revels asked of the draft report. Coffey said the matter could be placed on a September workshop agenda. “A lot of it, state law requires what’s in a manatee protection plan, so we follow that,” he said, along with other box-checking. The more unique part of the plan deals with boat slips.

“For our own education and the public’s ability to speak on it, we should have this on again,” Revels insisted.

“Sure,” Coffey said.

Jim Cullis, the Palm Coast developer who owns a property along the Intracoastal where a boat-slip permit was revoked, spoke of four “major projects that are ready to go forward,” with jobs and opportunities for boaters for more docking spots, but that the matter with federal officials must be resolved swiftly.

Download the proposed manatee protection plan.

11 Responses for “Boat-Dock Permits Revoked, Flagler Re-Ignites Urgency to Finish Manatee Protection Plan”

  1. Lancer says:

    I, actually, somewhat agree. We have many boaters in the canals who don’t understand what “no wake” or what “minimum wake” means. They don’t understand that they are responsible and liable for the damage they cause with their wake.

    If manatees can be harmed with their ignorance, then, so too, can children, paddle boarders, kayakers, etc.

    • Yellowstone says:

      Re: Manatee protection plan and speed zones

      I live right on the ICW near the PC Marina, and see violations to this policy out my back winndows nearly everyday. Large cruisers and small boaters roar by here! There are at times wakes that exceed the height of the seawalls. Often times I see the huge wakes – before I see the boater.

      You can never get a camera focused by the time they pass – so how can you report these violators?

      (I know – the only way to stop a bad is to hire a good guy with a gun . . . ?)

  2. groot says:

    My boat is out of the water now partly due to the limited boating opportunities in the area and the boating practices that rival any rudeness on the road. There is no local outlet to the sea so we’re all stuck on that little IC/Matanzas River. I have seen manatees being run over near Bings Landing. The entire area should be limited to no more than 20 mph. Cullis? All he cares about is the almighty dollar.

  3. My thoughts says:

    One of the best carpetbagger schemes hatched in this area … that it’s good for boating. NOT, when you’re hell and gone from an inlet. However, it does make for a very nice day at the beach – no boats in view for miles. I’ve known people who bought here thinking the boating would be great and either eventually sell the boat or move to an area where they could truly enjoy their boat, especially if you like to deep sea, as opposed to flats, fish.

  4. Barry Hartmann says:

    How many manatee deaths this season reported…….0

  5. Layla says:

    Revels hasn’t read the report? Why not? And fyi, permitting more docks here is not going to help the manatee population and I think we all know that.

    When this was discussed last time, we were one of the safest manatee areas in the state. Will slowing down help? Yes. But more boats in the water here will continue killing the babies because of the added pollution in the water. That’s a number to which nobody pays much attention. Does every home need it’s own dock?

  6. Buylocal says:

    Foxes cut is a no more than a canal that has a heavy manatee population and no speed limit.

    Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder?

  7. Dave says:

    Well, well. How are you going to enforce this, you can’t. I moved up here to a more peaceful place 10 years ago from Melbourne Fl.. They couldn’t enforce it there, they put FWC and the Sheriff depts out there on July 4th, and it worked, but you couldn’t find one any other day. It’s difficult.

    And then you have the yachting snowbirds in their boats going back and forth each year pushing a wake in their boats or speed on by with no care in the world. How about more actual posted speed limits, not two or three but put these signs up all along the ICW in Flagler County. .

  8. Deceiving the public again says:

    A decade and it’s still not done?!?!? What is Flagler County waiting on? County Administrator Craig Coffey has had 8 years to complete these requirements. Time for him to go! Are the County Commissioners not embarrassed? They should be!!! When Melissa Holland was a County Commissioner she want Coffey to go, and unfortunately 3 other commissioners wouldn’t support her. Maybe the current board should wake up and smell the Coffee.

  9. groot says:

    Took a ride over to Bings Landing today to see what’s up on a quiet weekday. I don’t like Bings Landing because of that smoke spewing B-B-Q restaurant. I stayed until the wind shifted from the south to the east and the smoke got me. I saw boaters hitting at least 40 mph thru the area. I did see one lone manatee and the boat that made a last minute cut into the channel just missed it. Score one for the manatees! I did see two old guys in a small sailboat almost get swamped by power boats accelerating by them. What’s a bigger carpetbagger scheme? This place is boater heaven or this place is golf central? I think it’s a tie.

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