Emergency rule extends manatee protection

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced an emergency rule to expand federal protection areas for manatees in Citrus County, Fla., creating a refuge that includes all of Kings Bay in Crystal River.

The emergency designation lasts for 120 days.

The manatee refuge goes into effect Monday and includes all waters of Kings Bay, including all tributaries and adjoining water bodies upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and Crystal River.

"The Kings Bay federal manatee refuge designation expands vital access for manatees to warm-water habitat during the coldest months of the year while clarifying what swimmers and others cannot do when in the presence of manatees," said Dave Hankla, the service's North Florida field supervisor, in a statement.

The Kings Bay manatee refuge joins an existing federal manatee protection network of 11 sanctuaries and 13 refuges.

The service has scheduled two public meetings in Crystal River to discuss the emergency rule. They are set for 6-9 p.m. Nov. 16 and 18.