Controversial Boat Show Map Disregards Manatee Zones and Critical Wildlife Areas

A newly surfaced map documenting water taxi routes for next year’s Miami Boat Show has Village of Key Biscayne officials and environmentalists up in arms. The proposed map, meant to alleviate traffic on Virginia Key Beach during the five-day event, crisscrosses protected manatee zones and critical wildlife areas.

The map indicates it was submitted in a proposal March 30, but Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay first saw it a few days ago after submitting a records request. Because of a lack of transparency from boat show officials, Lindsay explains, the process hasn’t been easy. “Were just trying to figure out what’s going on here because this is all moving so fast,” she says. 

Lindsay and the Village of Key Biscayne took the original proposed map and outlined where wildlife areas would be affected. According to their map, pictured above, the traffic patterns affect numerous manatee protection zones. They also directly interfere with the Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area. “These routes are just not possible,” Lindsay says. “Canoes aren’t even allowed in the CWA.”

Though the CWA is off-limits, the manatee-protected zones are not. However, boat speed limits are significantly lower in such areas, which leaves Lindsay questioning how these routes will be an effective traffic solution. “When you think about transporting thousands of people, it’s not really possible,” she says. “Taxis will have to go very slowly, people will need to be patient, and the amount of taxis that will even be allowed to operate at once is unknown.”

Director of the Tropical Audubon Society, Laura Reynolds, thinks the proposed map is outrageous. “The overall transportation plan for the boat show is very weak-linked because of how hard it is to get to the area,” she says. “We don’t support the boat show in its current state. They need to make improvements in their plan. It’s not that we don’t support it entirely — it just needs to be something that’ll leave the area in a better state, not worse.”

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has not seen the updated map and was previously unaware of the threats that the taxi route posed on wildlife. “We all have an obligation to preserve the preserve, so if this map is true and it does cross the CWA, then of course I would require the city to rectify that,” he says.

Mediation was held July 8 between the Village of Key Biscayne and the City of Miami over the dispute of bringing the boat show to Virginia Key. The boat show is scheduled for February 2016 and will be held at Marine Stadium Park, not the stadium itself, despite popular belief. The $120 million deal to restore Miami Marine Stadium for the event floundered, so the city plans to spend $16 million to create an outdoor event space next to the stadium for the boat show that can also be lined with turf and used as a playing field during down time.

However, Sarnoff remains optimistic for a full resolution to the issue. “A formula for a recommended settlement has been provided, and we continue to negotiate toward a good-faith resolution,” he says.

After the New Times published the story, we received a statement from Director of the Miami Boat Show Cathy Joule stating the boat show has and will continue to protect and respect the environment that surrounds its events. "We are currently working with environmental regulatory agencies on mapping the water taxi routes for the 2016 show to ensure that no sea life is harmed and we comply with regulations, as we always do. Once those maps are finalized, we will share them with participants and the public.”
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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
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