EPA proposes no discharge zone designation for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has proposed to designate waters of the State of Florida within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as a no discharge zone.

July 20, 2001 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has proposed to designate waters of the State of Florida within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as a no discharge zone.

A no-discharge zone designation would prohibit the discharge of sewage, whether treated or not, from a vessel into state waters of the marine sanctuary.

This action was taken in response to requests from Monroe County, Florida Board of County Commissioners and the Governor of Florida.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is pursuing the designation of a no discharge zone for all federal waters within the sanctuary.

"We seek to better protect and preserve the unique natural resources of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, consistent with the wishes of the county, state, and our federal partners," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "These marine environments support rich biological communities possessing extensive conservation, recreational, commercial, ecological, educational, and aesthetic values."

"I am very pleased that EPA is moving forward in this important initiative," said Florida Governor Jeb Bush. "This designation will prohibit the discharge of sewage from any vessel into the state waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. We look forward to a continued partnership with the federal government and the local community to ensure that this unique tropical marine ecosystem and coral reef is available for generations to come."

The marine ecosystem of the sanctuary is dependent upon clear water with low nutrients. For this reason, the waters surrounding the Florida Keys of Monroe County, Florida have been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. The Florida Keys are a national treasure of international acclaim that contain unique environments and possess high value to humans when properly conserved. Adjacent to the Florida Keys land mass are spectacular, unique, nationally significant marine environments, including seagrass meadows, mangrove islands, and extensive living coral reefs. The third largest coral barrier reef in the world lies just off the Atlantic side of the Keys and is a popular recreation attraction. These marine environments are the maritime equivalent of tropical rain forests in that they support high levels of biological diversity, are fragile, and easily susceptible to damage from human activities.

The economy of the Florida Keys is based in large part on tourism and fisheries that are directly tied to the ecological resources and quality of the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed no discharge zone when it is published in the Federal Register within the next two weeks. The comment period will extend for 30 days from the date of publication. The comments will be reviewed by EPA's Region 4 (Atlanta) and a final Federal Register notice addressing all comments and announcing a final decision will then be issued.

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