Manatee plan could dock development
Cape Coral would lose most if waterfront restrictions OK’d
By JEFF CULL, [email protected]
BIG BUSINESS: Clay Hadley, left, and Wayne Carter of Sun Ray Marine of Fort Myers drive pilings for a dock in a canal off Southwest 57th Terrace in Cape Coral on Wednesday. MARC BEAUDIN/the News-Press
A proposed federal manatee protection plan released Wednesday could effectively ban new boat ramps, docks and marinas in several Lee County areas for the next five years.
The plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks to reduce manatee deaths caused by power boats in areas it believes offer inadequate protection for manatees.
Those areas include Cape Coral’s saltwater canals, much of the Caloosahatchee River, Ten Mile and Mullock creeks and parts of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound.
By limiting the number of access points, Fish and Wildlife believes it can reduce the number of manatee deaths in a region that accounts for 42 percent of manatees in the state.
The plan was required by a settlement agreement to a lawsuit filed by the Save the Manatee Club and other environmental groups nearly three years ago.
Cape Coral has the most to lose from the plan. With nearly 100 miles of saltwater canals and an economy built on new home construction, the 12th largest city in Florida could see an economic downturn.
“Essentially they’re cutting us off at the knees,” said Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart, who said he’ll be asking city council on Tuesday to authorize hiring a Washington, D.C., law firm to represent the city in this matter. “This could affect property values throughout the city.”
Area dock builders, waterfront property owners, boaters and real estate agents had hoped that the plan would break a stalemate that has kept Fish and Wildlife from allowing boat dock permits in these areas for the past two years.
The new proposal does nothing but strengthen that stalemate