Vote delayed on manatee protections in Florida

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A vote on whether to relax protections for manatees in Miami-Dade County to clear the way for more docks to be built on key waterways did not go forward Thursday.

Revisions to the protection plan, put forth by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Berreiro, were based on recommendations from the marine and development industries, according to a Miami Herald report on Tuesday.

The commission was expected to vote on the plan Thursday, but Berreiro withdrew the revisions from a vote, according to a follow-up Miami Herald report. Instead, he asked county staff members to informally send the proposals to state regulators so they can weigh in.

“Go up to the state, get feedback and come back,” Barreiro said during the meeting, adding that he would like to have a resolution in the next three months, according to the Herald.

The commissioner had hoped the county would send his proposal to Tallahassee for approval or denial, but he acknowledged that he didn’t have the support of his colleagues on the land use and development committee.

The rules are not only opposed by environmental activists, who contend that they would put more boats on the water that could collide with the slow-moving mammals. Some Miami-Dade regulators also object to some of the proposed changes.

Several groups have backed some of the revisions, including the Miami River Commission, an advisory group that reviews development along the waterway, and the Miami River Marine Group.

Among the main proposals are:

• Increasing the number of boat slips fivefold at downtown commercial properties and threefold at certain residential buildings

• Allowing water-taxi stops in parts of the Miami River, including near the Civic Center and Marlins Park

• Moving up the date to five years ago, from 1984, to grandfather existing facilities that can rebuild docks without new permits

• Allowing boat slips to be transferred from one property to another as long as the transfer results in a net reduction of slips

• Expanding commercial marinas in places less frequented by manatees, including county-owned facilities at Crandon and Matheson Hammock parks. Both have waiting lists for slips ranging from five months to seven years, depending on the size of the boat, according to the county parks department.

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