The Broward County Commission has adopted a manatee protection plan that it hopes will pass federal and state muster and end the de facto three-year moratorium on slip construction in the county.
Forty-two new-slip applications are pending in Broward, which is one of Florida’s largest boating counties with 50,000 registered vessels. Its largest city, Fort Lauderdale, is a popular cruising destination.
The plan, approved June 26, would allow construction of 4,392 more wet and dry slips, and boat ramp parking places — most of them in the county’s southern reaches where there is reasonably easy access to the inlet at Port Everglades. The number is way down from the 6,972 slips the commission approved last September. That plan drew criticism from manatee advocates and no support from state wildlife conservation officials, so boating and environmental interests went back to the drawing board.
The new plan proposes fewer slips and some new protection measures: an additional marine patrolman to work in critical manatee habitat; flashing signs to warn boaters when large numbers of manatees are in town; close monitoring of manatees’ arrival in and departure from local waters; designation of Port Everglades as a special area of concern where manatees congregate around the power plant’s warm-water outfall, and non-residential slip fees charged to marinas and developers to pay for these protections.
“We feel we have a plan that is a good plan,” says Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. “We’re going to work hard to make sure we do the best job we can of protecting manatees, as well as providing for growth of Broward’s $10.8 billion marine industry.”
Herhold says the 42 slip-building projects that are in the permitting process, plus others waiting in the wings, likely will use most of the slips approved in the new plan. Among the projects on the horizon:
• The Harborage Club, a 340-slip hurricane-resistant, climate-controlled dry-storage condominium marina with deep-water access from the 16th StreetSeminoleCanal in Fort Lauderdale. The slips will be 35 to 45 feet and of various widths and heights to accommodate more than 95 percent of center console and express-type boats from 25 to 45 feet, according to the developer, Atlantic Marina Holdings, of Charleston, S.C. Slips will be for sale, fee-simple, and buyers become members of a private rooftop yacht club with pool, poolside bar and grill, spa, locker rooms, weather and business center, club room and concierge service. The marina also will have a ship’s store, fuel dock, covered parking store and on-site boat sales and service.
• Marina Mile Yachting Center, an upgrade and expansion of what has been known at different times as the Marina Mile Shipyard, Marina 84 and New River Drydock. Steven M. Israel, owner of New York City’s Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club and Tarpon Springs, Fla.’s Port Tarpon Marina, has teamed up with Strategic Capital Partners, a Chicago private investment fund, to acquire the 6-acre facility in Fort Lauderdale, according to Marine Realty, which brokered the transaction. Plans include 2,000 linear feet of dock space for boats up to 165 feet and upland storage for 30 boats starting at 35 feet. Leaseholders — marina and service operators, boatbuilders and marine contractors — will run the facility. It will continue to operate a drydock capable of handling vessels up to 140 feet long with 32-foot beam.
• The Sails, attorney Ron Mastriana and developer/boatbuilder Tom Galzalez’s hotel-marina-retail project on the southeast corner of Fort. Lauderdale’s 17th Street Causeway and the Intracoastal Waterway, just outside of the 17thStreet bridge. Though they still are fighting with the city over plans, the pair is proposing 30 wet slips and a 150-slip dry-stack, along with a 350-room hotel, 63,000 square feet of retail and office space and a 3,900-square-foot restaurant, all along a deep-water channel just minutes from Port Everglades’ inlet.
The manatee plan still must be approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Herhold says the plan is based on what researchers know of manatee behavior in the county. He says there are an estimated 20 resident manatees in Broward, but when a winter cold snap hits farther north, where many more manatees live, hundreds may suddenly appear in Broward as they seek refuge from the cold in waters around Port Everglades’ warm-water outfall. He says they don’t stay long, because the county only has about an acre of grassbeds, which isn’t enough for the hungry manatees.
Herhold says researchers at NOVAUniversity’s Oceanographic Institute will closely monitor the manatees’ arrival and departure and issue boater alerts when the manatees are in town.
“We’re just an overnight wintertime hotel for them,” Herhold says. “We’re going to check them in and check them out,” and closely track them when they are in BrowardCounty waters.