THE MANATEE KEY

The Manatee Key is used by the Army Corps of Engineers to review permit applications involving: (1) dredging, filling, and construction of in-water activities or structures or (2) construction of docks, marinas, boat ramps, boat slips, dry storage, or any other watercraft access facilities.

Among it provisions, the Key:
(1) defines "watercraft access structures" to include docks or piers, marinas, boat ramps, boat slips, boat lifts, floats, pilings, boat davits, dry storage, etc.,
(2) considers 35 counties to be areas of "heightened scrutiny,"
(3) will take into consideration the effects of multiple independent permit applications, i.e., how many docks have been requested or permitted in nearby waters, and
(4) defines "indirect effects" to include watercraft access development in waters not currently accessible to manatees.

GUIDANCE DOCUMENT

On March 14, 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the availability of "an interim strategy to comply with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), on actions resulting in increased watercraft access in Florida."

Among its provisions, the interim strategy:
(1) Provides that "the Service believes that increased manatee speed zone enforcement is the primary conservation measure;"
(2) Applied to any new watercraft access activity that could result in adverse effects on manatees;
(3) Allows biological evaluations to be used by individuals, local governments, state agencies, and federal agencies to develop manatee conservation measures;
(4) Defines "high risk areas" as those areas averaging ONE OR MORE watercraft-related mortalities per year
during the last ten years and "medium risk areas" as areas which averaged LESS THAN ONE but more than zero watercraft-related mortalities;
(5) Provides that watercraft access developments in medium and high risk areas should provide for increased hours of enforcement officer presence, i.e., an impact fee;
(6) Provides that USFWS may require a "financial contribution from any applicant be given to an organization or entity that participates in and/or funds manatee conservation actions" for single family docks in order to meet the requirements of the guidelines;
(7) Permits the USFWS to not allow any mitigation where there are many project applications for single family docks in an area of particular importance to manatees or in an areas that is already experiencing very high manatee mortality;
(8) Indicates that adequate speed zones, speed zone signage, and speed zone enforcement will have to be in place before a project will be allowed in the 14 counties totally within high risk manatee areas which currently have no speed zones or "insufficient" speed zones;
(9) Provides a recommended level of increased enforcement per watercraft access point for high risk counties at a level of 1.65 hours per watercraft provided access per year for ten years.

 

 

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