So protected are the gentle sea cows that roam the waters off Biscayne Bay that regulations have thwarted the marine industry’s growth and frustrated developers’ plans to build widespread docks for recreational boaters.
At least that’s the argument from boaters and industry groups seeking to loosen restrictions in place for nearly two decades to guard the endangered Florida manatee.
They have a powerful supporter: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who has proposed revising the county’s manatee-protection plan to allow for more commercial and residential docks along key waterways.
“Where our plan was very rigid before, this one’s more flexible,” Barreiro said from the dais in January. “I want to give more encouragement to more boat ownership and more marine use.”
The revisions, scheduled for a public hearing Thursday, are not only opposed by environmental activists, who contend the new rules would put more boats on the water that could collide with the slow-moving mammals. Miami-Dade’s own regulators object to some of the proposed changes, which Barreiro concedes were based on recommendations from the marine and development industries.
“You’re trying to tell the state to make the boundaries less strict. That’s not what the data says,” said Lee Hefty, director of the county’s division of environmental resources management, DERM. “It would probably be a hard sell.”