Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Manatee Sanctuary
There will be something extra special to celebrate this holiday season for some homeowners in Key Largo. Their property values along with a safe haven for endangered manatees had been at risk. But now, a seven news investigation offers new meaning to the term hope floats. Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- There's lots of laughter in Key Largo when Buccaneer Point homeowners get together these days.
Quite a different scene from the way it was in January, when their way of life on south lake was in jeopardy.
Homeowner Paula Easevoli: "If they close this lake this will become a mosquito infested pond which it never was."
The trouble centered around plans to plug this creek which opens onto Florida Bay.
It provides access to open water for boaters.
Paula: "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that we're gonna suffer lowering values."
And the creek is also used by manatees who find safe harbor in the shallow lake.
Residents know many of them by name.
Paula: "This is Gulliver. Put your nose up dear. He's an injured manatee."
Lee Egland owns the land under the creek and was given a permit to fill it based on the contention the creek was illegally dug by some of his neighbors.
Lee Egland: "It was dead level all the way across. There was no creek. Water would pass at high tide."
But seven news found the original developer and he had a very different opinion.
Paula: "That creek's been there a long time."
Stuart Marr told us the creek was there when he dug out the lake in the early seventies, and way before that.
Stuart Marr: "And I have a sealed set of plans that show that that was on there in 1927."
When the homeowners brought the issue to court, judge Luis Garcia ruled in their favor.
They are convinced Marr's testimony played a major role in that decision.
Luis Garcia: "Stuart Marr made it clear that his intent was homeowners have access to the bay."
Manatee researcher Kit Curtain says the ruling is also a victory for manatees.
She says more gather in this lake than in any other spot in the keys.
Kit Curtain: "This lake offers them 360 degrees of protection from surf and wind. And there's a shallow shelf in the middle that they go and lay out it and warm up in the winter."
It's not often that the interests of manatees and homeowners are exactly the same. But that's the case here and in this case - everyone is a winner.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or In Broward at 954- 921-CLUE