Fort Myers Beach Environmental Project Manager Chadd Chustz has received a letter from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission giving the town approval to install lower speed limit signs to help protect the manatee.
Getting the speed limit lowered has been a year in the making when new 25MPH signs popped up in 2019. After Hurricane Irma came through, local residents noticed the old speed limit signs were gone. That responsibility falls to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Department.
FWC researched the area (generally from Bowditch to the Big Carlos Pass) and concluded that from November to April the speed limit should be 25 MPH and the higher speed limit signs were installed.
That decision riled up many in the community who believe that area should be a no wake zone year round to protect the Manatees. A group of community residents led the fight to research who to speak to at the state and the process to have the speed limit lowered. They wanted to make their case that a switch doesn’t flip in the brain of a Manatee so they all of a sudden know to get out of the way of speeding boats every November 1st.
One piece of the puzzle was for the town council to get onboard which they did in September passing an ordinance calling for an all year slow speed manatee protection zone.
The final step in the process now is for the town to obtain a permit from the FWC Boating and Waterways Section to post the signs to mark the zone created by the ordinance.
Here’s how the town ordinance lays out the waterway in question:
(1) All waters of Matanzas Pass and Estero Bay east of a line that bears 360° from the northernmost tip of Estero Island, and west and southwest of a line 1000 feet east and northeast of and parallel to the general contour of the east and northeastern shorelines of Estero Island, and west of a line beginning at a point on the eastern shoreline of Estero Island and bearing 36° to a on the southern shoreline of Coon Key, but excluding the portions of the marked NorthSouth channel in northern Estero Bay from Green Channel Marker “37” to Green Channel Marker “57.”
(2) All waters of Buccaneer Lagoon at the Southern end of Estero Island.