Broward Co. plan adds over 4,000 boat slips

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Commissioners in Broward County, Fla., have unanimously approved a manatee protection plan that would allow more than 4,000 new boat slips to be built in the county, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in a story this week.

The plan calls for new fees on owners of commercial boating facilities, such as marinas, primarily to pay for increased law enforcement on the water to deter boaters from speeding. It also calls for more signs warning boaters to slow down, including ones that would light up when manatees are present. The plan also sets aside 513 slips for cities to develop into public boating facilities, the newspaper reported.

The state has required Broward and 12 other coastal counties to produce plans limiting where new marine facilities could be built. The county's previous draft, which would have permitted more than 7,000 new slips, angered environmentalists and led the state wildlife commission to warn the plan would be rejected if the county failed to revise it, according to the story.

The new plan would allow construction of 4,392 boat slips, dry-stack storage units, boat-ramp parking spaces and other facilities for boats.

"The marine industry took a run at it. They asked for a bunch more slips and they didn't get it approved," Eric Meyer, Broward County's director of biological resources told the newspaper. "We actively got the environmental community involved this time. If everybody's unhappy, you've done your job."

Carol Knox, biological administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wrote to the county that if the current plan went through, she would recommend approval to the commission's executive director, provided the county shows it can fund the law enforcement, monitoring, signs and other protection measures called for in the plan. The plan also must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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The agencies' approval would end a moratorium of more than three years on new commercial boating facilities in Broward County. Proposals for about 800 boat slips are likely to move forward once the plan goes through, Meyer said.

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