Broward County, Fla. officials yesterday approved a plan, allowing the construction of nearly 7,000 docks, dry-stack storage units and boat ramp parking spaces in the county. Officials yesterday approved a plan, allowing the construction of nearly 7,000 docks, dry-stack storage units and boat ramp parking spaces in the county.
But there's a long way to go before construction can begin.
The new docks are part of the county's proposed manatee-protection plan, which 13 coastal Florida counties must produce, showing where boating access points could be built.
The plan needs state and federal approval, and county commissioners expect it to ultimately be rejected, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. However, they said, submitting the plan at least gets the process moving forward.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, in a letter, called the plan "flawed" and "ineffective," the newspaper reports. It also warned it would likely increase the number of manatees killed by boats.
"It's not over, we've got our work cut out for us, but it was time for the plan to move to the next phase and we're looking forward to working with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in developing a plan that will provide improved manatee protection, yet allow for reasonable marine industry growth," said Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
Of the 6,972 new docks approved, Herhold said, 5,000 of those would be allowed in the southern portion of the county where additional access points are most critical.
Recreational boating, he said at the meeting, represents the "pulse of this community" and is an "economic engine" for the region, much like the county's numerous hotels and Port Everglades.
"In the case of the marine industry, we need slips," he said. "Take away the slips and it is just like taking away hotel rooms, terminals, cranes, etc.for the other economic engines. Without these resources, the engines slowly diminish and fade away."
Nearly 30 percent of the state's gross marine sales come from Broward County, he noted. The industry generates $10.8 billion in economic growth and is responsible for 134,000 jobs.
Watercraft have killed six manatees in the county so far this year, the most in more than 30 years, according to state records.
Herhold has argued that many of the county's manatee deaths can be attributed to big ships in Port Everglades, rather than recreational boaters.