Don’t ever believe that the cruising community, particularly when coupled with the Florida Marine Industries Association and local businesses, cannot have an affect on governmental policy. Pressure from all these entities has resulted in a SECOND delay of upgrade work on the Okeechobee Waterway’s Moore Haven Lock.
Of course, and year round Florida cruisers should not forget this, this date does mean the Okeechobee Waterway will be effectively closed for the summer 2012 months, at least until August 8, 2012 (see below)!
This past fall, there was an uproar, both within the cruising community, and in the Florida business community centered on the cities of Stuart and Fort Myers, concerning an Army Corps of Engineers plan to close the Moore Haven Lock from September, well into November, in order to install Manatee protective devices. Due to the one-axis east to west nature of the Okeechobee Waterway, closing one lock, closes the entire passage from Stuart to Fort Myers, or the other way around. The USCAE gave in to all the hub-bub, and agreed to postpone this procedure.
Then, in February of this year, a new proposal was announced that would have closed the Moore Haven Lock/Okeechobee Waterway from April 1 to May 25. A 2/17/12 public forum was held to seek public input, and the USACOE must have gotten a real earful, as they announced a delay to the lock upgrade until 5/14/12!
Now, as you will read below, this closure has been delayed yet again, until 6/11/12. If I may insert an editorial comment here, that’s when the work should have been scheduled from the start. Traffic on the Okeechobee falls way off during the summer months, but, of course, some year round Sunshine State cruisers will still be inconvenienced.
Still, though, count this one a VICTORY FOR THE CRUISING COMMUNITY!
Florida, Okeechobee Waterway Lock Closure, Update – MNN030712
Temporary Closure of Moore Haven Lock has now been rescheduled to begin
June 8th to install Manatee Protection System.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has postponed the start date for installation of the Manatee Protection System (MPS) at the Moore Haven Lock as a result of concerns expressed by the public at meetings held earlier.
The lock on the Okeechobee Waterway is now scheduled to be temporarily closed from June 11th for approximately 8 weeks. The lock is anticipated to open for navigation on August 8, 2012.
“After hearing the economic and recreational concerns expressed at last night’s meeting, the Corps has adjusted the scheduled lock closure to reduce the impact to the local communities,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kinard, deputy district commander. “This timeframe will allow the lock to remain open further into the boating season, while allowing us to complete the installation at the beginning of the hurricane season when the risk is low. It’s all about balancing impacts and risks.”
Installation of the MPS is part of the Manatee Pass Gates project. The primary goal of the project is to safeguard Florida’s endangered manatees from serious injury or death at water control structures and navigation locks by modifying these structures with a MPS. Using a set of acoustic transmitters and receivers, the MPS detects the West Indian manatee and prevents the gates from closing and harming the protected animal.
The Manatee Protection System has been manufactured and above-ground fixtures have been installed at Moore Haven Lock. The remaining work includes dewatering the lock, installing the MPS to the lock gates, testing the system, and re-watering the lock. Work is expected to be complete within two months.
Thanks to all those who helped convince the Corps to delay the closing of the Moore Haven lock. My return from the Bahamas to the Tampa area will be much quicker.