November 20, 2015

FWC amends proposed regulations after PLF files challenge

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

In August, PLF filed a petition against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on behalf of William Thomas, claiming that the FWC was stepping beyond its statutory authority with its proposal to severely limit boat speeds in two Pinellas County water basins. Thomas, a retiree and boating enthusiast, lives in Indian Rocks Beach near two manmade basins that are connected to the intracoastal waterway. The two basins are popular for recreational boating, waterskiing, and jetskiing. But the FWC approved a rule this summer that would have turned both basins into slow zones, ending Mr. Thomas’s recreational use of these waters.

IdleSpeedState law allows the FWC to impose slow zone regulations where manatees are “frequently sighted” and where the best available science shows that they inhabit the waters. But according to the FWC data, manatees were not frequently sighted there and there was no evidence that they inhabited the basins. In fact, in the FWC’s 28 aerial surveys of manatee use in Pinellas County, no manatee was ever seen in the Northern basin, and only one or two were seen in the Southern basin.

Yesterday, the FWC reconsidered its proposed rule and decided it would amend it to exclude the two basins from its list of proposed slow zones. Needless to say, we’re happy anytime the government decides to do the right thing. But it’s particularly gratifying when the change of heart appears to be motivated by a PLF legal challenge.

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