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Contact: Linda Friar, 305-242-7714
Contact: Raymond Little, 239-695-4217
Everglades National Park is pleased to announce that new regulatory markers are being installed in Chokoloskee Bay near Chokoloskee Island. Sixteen (16) markers will be installed along with signs that identify new boating speed zones. The purpose of these zones is to improve manatee protection in this area of the park.
This area was designated an "Area of Inadequate Protection" (AIP) by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) as part of a settlement agreement reached between the USFWS and The Save the Manatee Club in 2001. This settlement required the USFWS to: 1) improve or enlarge manatee protection zones; 2) erect channel markers clearly designating areas where boaters must observe speed limits; and 3) enforce the limits.
The designation of the bay as an AIP had a number of outcomes that included stoppage of construction projects in the bay until this designation was removed. When the new markers are installed, the National Park Service expects the AIP designation will be removed and construction projects in the bay could proceed and that manatees will be better protected through implementation of additional protection zones.
The park engaged in a comprehensive and public planning process to develop new manatee protection zones. This planning effort included consideration of several proposed alternatives, two public meetings, stakeholder meetings, and written public feedback. The alternative selected is based on a proposal provided to the park by a group of park users, spearheaded by Max Schultz from the "Everglades For Everyone" group.
Turrell, Hall & Associates, Inc., a Marine and Environmental Consulting firm from Naples, Florida offered to take on the installation process and through the generosity of several donors and the staff at Turrell, Hall & Associates, Inc. the contract to install the markers was recently awarded. The work is expected to be completed by the end of February 2010.
Boaters are advised to exercise caution in this area both during the installation process and to be vigilant of the new speed zones. The park is developing maps and information handouts for the public that will clearly explain the new zones. Two poster size maps of the zones are available for viewing in the Gulf Coast visitor center.
Questions should be directed to Gulf Coast Park Rangers at 239-695-4217.