Florida dock debate pulls in NBC news show

By JEFF CULL, jcull@news-press.com

• What: NBC’s “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.” Interviews with Southwest Florida people about the boat dock controversy • When: The broadcast is tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday • Where: NBC-2
NBC’s “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” will air a piece about Cape Coral’s fight with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to get boat docks permitted. The report is tentatively scheduled to air during the 6:30 p.m. newscast Thursday.

NBC news correspondent Kerry Sanders was in Fort Myers this week interviewing opponents and proponents, trying to learn about the issue that has galvanized area boaters and property owners.

He said he’d been following online newspaper reports from his Miami office for a while and saw how the story had grown.

“People across the country are interested in what their government is doing whether they have manatees or not, especially when it involves property rights,” Sanders said.

The national forum is expected to help each side publicize its fight over a proposed federal plan to protect manatees in Florida.

“Hopefully it will raise folks’ awareness of manatees and our fragile environment in Southwest Florida,” said Laura Combs, regional representative for the Save the Manatee Club.

Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart called it a chance to inform people across the country of the Cape’s struggle to keep property rights for its citizens.

“From the political side it will let folks in (Washington) D.C. see that it’s something of national significance,” he said. “What any government does with property rights is important.”

At issue is the wildlife service’s manatee protection plan that could effectively ban new boat ramps, docks and marinas in areas of Lee County for the next five years.

With a city that has nearly 100 miles of saltwater canals and an economy built on new home construction, Cape officials fear an economic downturn if the plan goes into effect when scheduled in May. U.S. Fish is completing a series of seven public hearings across the state to discuss the plan.


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