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FWC eyes manatee zones in ICW
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TREASURE ISLAND – Pinellas County Coastal Manager Andy Squires told members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council April 30 that slow zones could be coming for boaters in the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is currently in an evaluation process through a Local Rule Review Committee that is conducting public meetings on proposed amendments to the manatee protection zone boat speed zones in western Pinellas.

“Basically, they’re looking at the proposed Manatee Protection Plan that the FWC has developed for western Pinellas County,” said Squires. “They have 60 days (from April 22) to write comments to FWC.”

Squires said the FWC is proposing a number of new idle-speed, or slow zones, for boats along the Intracoastal Waterway and Boca Ciega Bay.

He said four proposed zones are north of The Narrows in Indian Rocks Beach and 17 south of The Narrows.

The next step would be for FWC staff to review the LRRC report and provide a written response to county officials, as well as FWC commissioners. A series of public hearings would follow before a final vote by FWC commissioners.

Members of the local committee are Doug Speeler, Speeler Companies; Bill Allbright, local boater; Dave Travis, Bay Pines Marina; Dave Markett, Florida Fishing Guides Association; Terri Skapik, Woods Consulting; Mark LaPrade, Thunder Marine; Serra Herndon, Tampa Bay Watch; Katie, Tripp, Save The Manatee Club; Elizabeth Fleming, Defenders of Wildlife; Charles White, manatee rescue volunteer; Dave Kandz, St. Petersburg Audubon Society; and Janine Cianciolo, Sierra Club.

“It should be noted that there is no predetermined outcome,” said Carol Knox of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section in a letter to Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel. “Working through the LRRC process may lead us to revise our assessment of the extent to which zones are needed.”

The FWC approved its Manatee Management Plan in 2007, which is designed to ensure the long-term survival of manatees in Florida waters.

One of the primary goals of the plan is to target areas that have no manatee protection in place to determine if slow zones are necessary.

Nourishment on schedule

On another note, Squires said this year’s beach nourishment project is on schedule to begin July 19 at Sunshine Beach, from 127th to 120th avenues.

The remainder of the schedule is:

• Sunset Beach, July 29 to Aug. 17.

• Upham Beach, Aug. 21 to Sept. 3.

• Pass-A-Grille, Sept. 5 to Sept. 17.

The Sunset Beach portion of the $16.1 million project covers from Blind Pass Road south to 77th Avenue. The Upham Beach area covers from 71st to 67th avenues and the Pass-A-Grille portion from 23rd to First avenues.

‘Cookie’ on board

Joan “Cookie” Kennedy of Indian Rocks Beach was unanimously selected to represent the beach communities on the new Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO and the Pinellas Planning Council were recently merged to provide a more efficient agency to handle transportation and land use issues. The new board will consist of 13 members.

New officers

Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning took over as president of the BIG-C. Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Terry Hamilton Wollin is vice president and Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno is secretary/treasurer. They will all serve two-year terms.
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