FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2005
Cheva Heck/NOAA Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary
(305) 292-0311, ext. 26
(305) 304-0179 (cell)
NOAA RELEASES REVISED FLORIDA KEYS SANCTUARY PLAN FOR COMMENT
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announces the availability of the draft revised management plan for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for public review and comment. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"The changes we're proposing to the sanctuary's management plan will ensure that our management strategies are keeping pace with the challenges facing our marine environment," said FKNMS superintendent Billy Causey. "We encourage everyone who is interested in the future of the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem to review and comment on the proposed revisions which are designed to manage the area to optimize benefits to the ecosystem, the economy and public interest and safety."
Changes to the management plan include the addition of four new action plans: science management and administration; natural resource damage assessment and restoration; day-to-day sanctuary operations, including administration, community outreach and policy coordination; and evaluation of sanctuary activities.
The revised plan also calls for an increase in the number of enforcement positions; larger mooring buoys in deeper water to accommodate larger vessels; a focus on high priority infrastructure wastewater and stormwater management projects; increased socioeconomic research efforts; regional ecosystem research and monitoring; evaluation of marine zone uses; and identification of possible regulatory changes to ensure consistency with state regulations.
The document also outlines sanctuary accomplishments since its designation in 1990 and actions in the original 1997 management plan that have been completed. Major accomplishments include: a reduction in large ship groundings; improved water quality protection; improved response to vessel groundings and the restoration of damaged habitat; efforts to protect maritime heritage resources; increasing the number of mooring buoys; the marking of sanctuary zones; and improving waterway marking.
NOAA will accept comments on the draft revised management plan through April 15, 2005. Copies of the draft revised management plan are available by mail, at all three FKNMS offices, and on the FKNMS Web site at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov. The FKNMS offices are a located at: 216 Ann Street, Key West, (305) 292-0311; 5550 Overseas Highway (gulfside), Marathon (follow road to main house at the end), (305) 743-2437; and 95230 Overseas Highway (bayside), Key Largo, (305) 852-7717.
FKNMS also will hold three public hearings on the revisions to the plan. The hearings will be open house format and participants may come and go at any time. Staff will be available to explain changes to the plan. Both oral and written comments will be accepted and a Spanish translator will be available. The hearing dates and locations are:
Monday, March 28, 2005; 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
Monroe County Government Center, BOCC Meeting Room
2798 Overseas Highway (gulfside)
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
Key Largo Library Meeting Room
Mile Marker 101.4, Tradewinds Shopping Plaza (oceanside)
Wednesday, March 30, 2005; 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
Harvey Government Center Meeting Room
1200 Truman Avenue, corner of Truman and White streets, Key West
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act requires all sanctuaries to review their management plans every five years. In addition, the State of Florida required a five- year review of the FKNMS plan as part of its approval of the plan for state waters in 1997. The sanctuary held hearings in summer of 2001 to determine what revisions were necessary. Sanctuary staff, advisory council members and others formed working groups to develop plan revisions, which were approved by the full sanctuary advisory council, NOAA and the State of Florida. After the public comment period closes, NOAA will consider the comments received and respond to them in the final document.
Designated in 1990, FKNMS (http://www.floridakeys.noaa.gov) protects 2,900 square nautical miles of coral reefs, seagrass meadows, hardbottom communities, mangrove shorelines and mud and sand habitat. NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP; sanctuaries.noaa.gov) and the State of Florida jointly manage the FKNMS. The NMSP seeks to increase the public awareness of America's maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.
The NOAA Ocean Service (NOS; http://www.nos.noaa.gov) manages the NMSP, and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats, and mitigating coastal hazards.