Government to begin enforcing manatee zones

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Federal wildlife officials will begin enforcing new manatee speed zones next week in areas of Lee County, Fla., after a state judge had previously found the zones were unconstitutional, the Fort Myers News-Press reported today.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decided in February to replace those invalidated state speed zones with emergency federal rules, the story said.

“We expect to start enforcing them sometime next week,” Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for U.S. Fish & Wildlife in Jacksonville said in the story. Enforcement is expected to begin next Wednesday, but Underwood wouldn’t be specific on the day.

There are currently no speed restrictions for the areas concerned: Estero Bay; Matlacha Pass; the water near York and Galt islands at the south end of Pine Island; at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River; and near Shell Creek and Punta Rassa, all located in southwest Florida.

But when the federal rules begin, the area is expected to revert to the old state zones — essentially 25 mph in the channel and slow speed outside the channel, the News-Press said.

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