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NEVER Ending NEW Manatee Zones

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Old 03-19-2003, 06:47 AM
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Angry NEVER Ending NEW Manatee Zones

Will it ever stop?! Article in local paper this morning!

Officers warn boaters about manatee zones

By Jim Waymer
FLORIDA TODAY

State wildlife officers plan to teach, rather than ticket, those who speed through new manatee-protection zones, for now. In new federal manatee zones, boaters won't be so lucky.

"Generally, our policy is just to write straight tickets," said Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Occasionally we'll issue warnings, but the warnings are verbal."

To ease Brevard County boaters into 18 new manatee zones, state wildlife officials have been handing out maps of the zones with their warnings.

The state has written a few dozen tickets in Brevard, since new zones began to take effect late last year. Federal officers wrote more than 150 tickets during just two holiday weekend blitzes last year.

Slow speed manatee zones require boaters to avoid creating heavy wakes. That means about 5 mph for most boats.

New zones in Brevard that hug shoreline areas of most of the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River began taking effect in November, as signs went up about every half-mile in those water bodies.

Eight recently vandalized signs and a strategy to educate rather than ticket, will mean mostly written warnings.

"This is all new," said Lt. Troy Caruthers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Titusville.

But four of the state zones -- Sykes Creek, the Barge Canal, Haulover Canal, and a zone near Cocoa Beach's golf course -- also are overlaid with new federal zones. Speeders face up to a $100 fine in those zones and $65 fine in the state zones.

Between Sept. 27 and Feb. 30, the latest statistics available, state wildlife officers spent 1,042 hours patrolling Brevard's manatee zones -- the equivalent of about 177 eight-hour work shifts. Of 2,744 vessels watched passing through zones, 269 were speeding, about 9.8 percent.

Officers wrote 22 speeding tickets, 79 warnings and made 1,800 "educational contacts."

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service steps up its patrols during big holiday weekends. Last Memorial Day weekend, the service wrote 92 tickets. Independence Day weekend, they wrote 65 tickets. But Underwood said new security duties to help fend off terrorism often pull rangers from manatee detail.

About 500 signs mark the new state zones, 325 of them with new pilings in the water. Those pose a safety risk, boaters say, because they add obstructions.

Some of the new zones coincide with water-skiers' most prized areas, such as just offshore Cocoa Beach's golf course, leaving them with fewer options.

"There is no place," said Bob Atkins. He is one of five Merritt Island boaters challenging the zones, along with the cities of Titusville and Cocoa. "It's out of control, and we're stuck with it."

Last Wednesday, Atkins, the other boaters and the two cities presented their case to Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal. A panel of three judges will decide whether the state zones stand. They've set no timeline for their decision.

Also last week, eight manatee signs were cut -- seven with a chainsaw and one with a hand saw -- from zones near Pineda and Eau Gallie causeways. Four signs fell into the water. The other four teetered near collapse. It took two days for state and county officials to find and mark all of the damaged signs. They were fitted with buoys and orange cones, then removed from the water late last week. Two signs from one cut piling were still missing as of Tuesday.

Brevard County Commissioner Ron Pritchard, an outspoken opponent of the new zones, condemned the vandalism but said he understands the frustration over the heightened regulations.

"What you've got is some people that are very angry," said Pritchard, one of the Merritt Island boaters appealing the zones. He challenged them acting as a citizen, not as a commissioner.

He and other boaters have argued that slow zones aren't necessary to protect manatees.

"You just can't simply close down boating . . . because it makes you feel good," Pritchard said.

Steve Williams, head of U.S. Fish & Wildlife, said manatee zones help focus boater attention. The state and federal zones went in place after a coalition of environmental groups sued the state and federal government in January 2000 to increase manatee protections in Florida.

"A lot of it is being driven through the court system, so we're struggling to meet some kind of balance there," Williams said. "In a very large way, it's going to be determined by the court system."

Vandalism to manatee zone signs is nothing new, said Sandra Clinger, a regional coordinator for Save the Manatee Club, one of the groups that sued.

"I guess there's always an element out there in the population that's willing to flout the laws," Clinger said. "It's not productive."

Joe and Jack Blackham coasted into a boat ramp at Pineda Causeway on Tuesday, where severed signs had been pulled from the water last week. They still went slow.

Joe Blackham of Viera said he has no trouble steering around manatees when he sees them. "They're not bothering me, so I don't bother them," Joe Blackham said.

MD
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Old 03-19-2003, 07:21 AM
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I feel for you that sucks...
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Old 03-19-2003, 07:53 AM
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Dean , I fell for you dude, you have been fighting this thing ever since I have been on this board, do you think it time to move?
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Old 03-19-2003, 08:08 AM
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SM24,
That's exactly what the $MC wants, for us to move, and for all of us to sell our boats! We really like where we live, so I'll just keep up the fight!
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Old 03-19-2003, 10:40 AM
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Then people wonder why I dont want to go over to the east coast and take the boat out!
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Old 03-19-2003, 11:04 AM
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ChrisK,
I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before Manatee Zones are everywhere in the inland waterways in Fl. $MC can not stop, their $$ depend on it!
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