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For Immediate Release: Feb 10, 2003
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

PROPOSED COASTAL “GAPS” MAY HAVE CORAL REEFS

Group Asks for Surveys Before Laying Cables


Washington, DC - New evidence suggests that significant coral reefs may exist on the seabed where the State of Florida is poised to approve laying fiber optic cables, according to a filing today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

On Thursday, February 13, Governor Jeb Bush and the Cabinet are slated to approve a plan to designate five "gaps" along the state's Atlantic coast that are supposed to be coral-free for the location of fiber optic cables and other sub-surface facilities. Today PEER released laser maps of the so-called "South Broward Gap" showing significant seabed life indicative of coral reefs.

The PEER petition asks the Governor to authorize more detailed surveys before approving the South Broward Gap route. The petition also urges -

Use of directional drilling in order to prevent "frack-outs" and other reef-killing incidents. Last December, PEER published a study showing how much damage cable lines are causing Broward County's diminishing reef colonies;

Independent monitoring of proposed industry routing and verification of damage control reports submitted by corporate operators; and

Adopting fair market rates for telecommunication easements, reviewing industry easements every ten years rather than granting open-ended permits and limiting permits to bona fide projects by not granting permits on a speculative basis.

"Before putting portions of Florida's coasts up for auction, the state should do its homework and make sure they are doing it right," stated PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer."All the routes need to be carefully surveyed before being declared open for construction."

Florida's coral reefs, which have taken between 5,000 and 7,000 years to develop, are rapidly shrinking due to offshore dredging, increased turbidity and global warming. Many reef organisms among Florida's corals can survive in only a narrow range of conditions.

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Read PEER's petition regarding underwater cable destruction.