NAPLES, Fla. – Federal permitting agencies have released hundreds of dock permits, and numerous dock-building projects are underway along Lee County (Fla.) waterways that have been off limits since the beginning of the year, according to a story today in the Bonita Daily News.
Many of the permits had been delayed because of disputes over manatee protections in the area. Earlier this year, a circuit court ruled five Lee County speed zones to be unenforceable, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to halt dock permits for those areas, the newspaper reported.
But the Fish and Wildlife Service recently adopted its own enforcement zones for the same areas, and now that it considers most of Lee County to have proper enforcement, dock permits are flowing again, the Daily News said.
However, while many are happy their projects are now allowed to go forward, others in the marine industry say the Fish and Wildlife Service is still not allowing enough waterfront construction, the newspaper said.
Ken Stead, of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, told the Daily News he'd like to see the agency release permits for larger commercial and public boat ramp projects.
"We're supportive of dock permits flowing, but we're not sure why you can issue [hundreds] of single-family docks and then deny one commercial or multislip facility," Stead said. "Commercial slips and public ramps are the way the average boater gets on the water."
Stead told the newspaper it would take several years for the local marine industry to build commercial and public projects that would equal the number of docks and slips that are currently being issued for single-family homes. He believes the average Lee County boater is being ignored, while property owners are being given special treatment, the newspaper reported.
"It caters to 'the haves,' " Stead said. "It's obviously politically unpopular to not issue single-family docks, and it's an election year."