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Florida county adopts boat speed zones

Commissioners in Lee County, Fla., unanimously passed a final manatee protection plan June 29, despite the continued protests of recreational boaters, dock builders and environmentalists, according to a published report.

The plan establishes rules for marina developers and for enforcing boat speed zones in waters where manatees swim, in addition to requiring educational materials about sea cows be made available at public boating facilities, according to the report in the Fort Myers News-Press.

Lee County boaters and developers have been fighting the plan for more than three years, saying the speed zones would make it tougher to reach the Gulf and the dock-building restrictions violate the rights of builders and property owners, the newspaper says.

“I reluctantly endorsed the plan,” Ken Stead, executive director of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, was quoted as saying. He told the newspaper he is concerned about what the plan will do to public waterway access, but agreed it “will allow commercial boating facility projects to move forward that have been on hold for three years.”

Elsewhere in Florida, a vote on whether to establish permanent boater slow speed zones on Florida’s Naples Bay was delayed until Oct. 6, after a few Naples City Council members had a last-minute change of heart at a City Hall hearing, according to a news report.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of postponing the public hearing, originally scheduled for June 16, and the final vote to October, in order to allow more time to conduct a workshop between the Collier County Commission and the Naples City Council on the issue, according to a report in the Naples Daily News.