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Florida seeks comment on ICW manatee zones

A proposal for manatee protection zones on portions of the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler County is ready for public input, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced.

Under the proposal, there would be 2.7 miles of new slow-speed zones on the 18.6 miles of Intracoastal Waterway channel within the county. This would be for only four months of the year. Manatee protection zones are proposed for three areas: near Hammock Bridge in Palm Coast; near Flagler Beach from the Highway 100 bridge north to the Lehigh Canal area; and in the vicinity of the Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area.

All proposed manatee protection zones would be in effect only from May 1 through Labor Day, reflecting the times when manatees are most likely to frequent the area and the risks to manatees increase because of higher levels of boat traffic.

“It is the goal of the manatee program to identify areas where manatees are at significant risk and determine if steps can be taken to reduce that risk,” Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC’s imperiled species section, said in a statement. “It also was important to collaborate with many stakeholders on the proposed Flagler manatee protection zones to make sure we took into account the impacts on boating and the local economy.”

After public feedback, the commission plans to take up the rule again at a meeting in 2012.

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