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Flagler County Approves Manatee Protection Plan With Speed Zones on Intracoastal

| May 28, 2016

manatee protection plan flagler

Protected. (NOAA)

The Flagler County Commission last week approved a manatee protection plan to address the concerns of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The Flagler County Manatee Protection Plan, together with the Intracoastal Waterway manatee speed zones, are intended to provide long term protection of manatees and their habitat within manatee accessible waterways,” said Tim Telfer, Flagler County Public Lands and Natural Resources Manager. “The plan is now in effect throughout Flagler County.”

Cities can choose to develop their own individual plan rather than follow the Flagler County plan, which can be reviewed here.

“This plan is comprised of comprehensive documents that address manatee biology, public education development and outreach measures, as well as an increased law enforcement presence at waterway speed zones,” Telfer said. “These documents also address measures to locate future development in areas that reduce the likelihood of impacts to manatees from watercraft.”

Waterway manatee speed zones are now in effect. Warm season speed zones are in effect from May 1 to September 7 for boats and other watercraft on the Intracoastal Waterway. Slow speed zones are primarily from north of the Lehigh Canal to just south of State Road 100 and from the canals south of State Road 100 to Gamble Rogers State Park. The specific zone areas can be viewed here.

The county has been under mandate to develop a plan since 2006. That year the county was subject of a Biological Opinion from Fish and Wildlife to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recommending denial of five multi boating-dock projects in Flagler County, for lack of a manatee protection plan. Two manatees were killed in collisions with boats in Flagler in 2003, 2006, and 2007. In 2007, Fish and Wildlife identified Flagler within its Manatee Management Plan as
having little or no manatee protection regulations, opening the way to a recommendation for speed zones. Since the 2006 notice from FWC outlining manatee concerns in Flagler County waters, seven manatees have died from watercraft impacts as of April 15, with no documented deaths since 2012.

Despite the relatively low number of watercraft manatee deaths in comparison to other coastal counties, state and federal authorities insisted on a number of manatee protection measures before regulatory development permits would be issued again. In 2010 the county first convened a committee to study various possibilities and recommend an approach. The committee was heavily stacked with boating interests. The plan has gone through numerous versions, drawing some criticism along the way from environmentalists, manatee-protection advocates and the Fish and Wildlife Commission for not being comprehensive enough.

The county’s Manatee Protection Plan now contains a number of sections intended to increase protections to manatees. These sections include an educational component, a plan for enforcement of watercraft speed zones, biological information regarding manatees and a description of the habitat and any attractants within Flagler County. One of the
key sections is the Boating Facility Siting Plan, intended to ensure future watercraft are moored and operate away from manatee congregation areas by designating areas where additional boating facility slips may be authorized and where they should not be authorized.

Flagler County’s Boating Facilities Siting Plan contains maps of every section of the ICW and Crescent and Dead Lakes. The shorelines of these water bodies are categorized by one of five designations: Conservation, Unrestricted (referenced only in portions of the Lehigh Canal), Moderate, Non-Preferred, and Preferred. Each category then has a slip to shoreline ratio assigned to it, from one slip per 100 feet of shoreline to five slips to 100 feet of shoreline to no restrictions. These slip ratios dictate the intensity of growth of waterfront areas in the future.

Flagler Beach, Palm Coast, Beverly Beach and Marineland may opt out of the siting plan review process if they wish.

Key to the manatee protection measures are the seasonal and at times controversial watercraft speed zones regulating 5.4 miles of the 18.6 miles of the Flagler County Intracoastal Waterway. In April, Fish and Wildlife added another half mile of speed zone. This new zone included the western portion of a zone that had only previously addressed the eastern area of the Intracoastal, in the vicinity of the Lehigh Canal.

“We are very pleased to have this protection plan in place,” said County Commission Chair Barbara Revels. “We have been fortunate in that we have not had a manatee death here in a number of years and we want to keep that trend going.”

Flagler County Manatee Protection Plan Speed Zones Map.

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10 Responses for “Flagler County Approves Manatee Protection Plan With Speed Zones on Intracoastal”

  1. Edith F. says:

    I am glad to see that the final phase of the manatee protection plan was approved. As your artilce points out, the latest revision now specifies slow speed around the Lehigh Cut (page 12 of the Flagler County Plan), where Sea Ray is located and tests their boats. Now that the plan is approved, we can expect development of the Harbor View Marina PUD, which is directly north of Sea Ray Boats and was dug with an EXPIRED Army Corps of Engineers permit. Also, Jim Cullis’s Lighthouse Harbor Marina PUD, west of Sea Ray Boats, will likely be dug and graded in the coming months. Let’s hope that the existing gopher tortoises on both properties are relocated, as required by Florida Fish and Wildlife, before work continues.

  2. gladfly says:

    That won’t slow anybody down. They run through those no wake zones like there’s no tomorrow.

  3. Dave says:

    These speed zones do not work in anywhere in the state. No enforcement and most just pay the fine and keep going.

  4. j michael kelley says:

    I can’t help but wonder how many people know the manatee is an invasive species. Hmmm. Interesting.

  5. Dave says:

    J michael; I’m not a real fan of the sea cow, but we have to live with them like we do with our resident bears. The Fla manatee has been around Florida since the 1500’s but over hunting
    between the 1700s and 1900s is believed to be responsible for reducing the
    manatee population to only a few relict groups. So if being here since the 1500’s is considered invasive we might as well call people moving into Florida as invasive. . Some history on the Florida manatee.

  6. YankeeExPat says:

    Do the reserach Mr. j michael kelley

    The manatee is a Native species of Florida . (United States Fish and Wildlife Service)…/manatee/manatee-native-facts….

  7. NortonSmitty says:

    Once again the Politicians will make the Intercoastal behind every Millionaires house a Manatee Zone so their yachts don’t rock and ignore the places where there are actually Manatees.

  8. Ben Hogarth says:

    I just want to say great work Tim. It’s not everyday that the right folks get the credit they deserve.

    Responsible stewardship of the environment should be the political agenda for all.

  9. AB says:

    We live in the Hammock and love our boats (oh, and we’re not Palm Coast!). The problem is, this part of the ICW is narrow, and therefore give little room for the manatees to travel safely. I don’t think that the boats here need to idle by, but at the same time, the racing boats and large pleasure boats don’t need to fly by! The local boat builders test their boats at top speed disrupting wild life and human life as well.

    By the way Norton, the yachts here are hoisted up, so no rocking goes on.

    Also, the state doesn’t need to encourage grass beds in the narrow part of the channel as manatees need to safely move on to wider areas, not stay and graze. Compromise.

  10. Kevin says:

    What the heck took so long to get this logical plan enacted? 10 years, seriously? On our highways there a school zones with slower speeds and hospital zones with quiet zones yet it takes 10 years to develop a slow speed zone to prevent the knuckleheads from opening it up and disturbing everyone from the tranquility of our local waterways! God bless the special interest groups in America.

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