Marine contractors file intent to sue feds over manatee rules - Costs industry $100 million, 1,000 jobs this year, association charges

Associated Press,
St. Petersburg Times

March 05, 2003

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Florida marine contractors have notified the federal government they intend to sue over the manatee protection rules, claiming the policies make it too difficult to get dock permits and will cost the industry $100 million and 1,000 jobs this year.

The Florida Marine Contractors Association filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The group represents about 140 dock builders, marine suppliers and related services.

The notice, filed Monday, gives the agencies 60 days to change the manatee rules or face the possibility of litigation.

The claim says the government is improperly using the Marine Mammal Protection Act to make rules to protect the West Indian Manatee. Under the act, the government establishes areas of inadequate protection where dock permits can't be issued.

As a result, very few dock permits have been issued for the saltwater canals in south Cape Coral, the Caloosahatchee River, Ten Mile and Mullock creeks and parts of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound.

The notice also challenges the new rules for issuing dock permits across the state.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is requiring biological opinions for every marine permit it issues. Since the policy was implemented in January, no dock permits have been issued in Florida. More than 1,300 applications have been filed.

Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the federal fish and wildlife service in Jacksonville, said lawyers and biologists are working on the problem. /


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