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Florida OKs Fiber Optic Paths Through Coral Reefs

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TALAHASSEE, Fla., August 27 -- Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet have approved five routes through South Florida coral reefs where companies can lay undersea fiber optic cables.

The plan, proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and approved Tuesday, gives incentives for companies to lay cable in the natural corridors off Broward and Palm Beach counties instead of in denser coral beds. It also prohibits laying cables in the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and in the coastal waters of Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the only barrier reef in the continental US.

Previously, requests for laying undersea cables in offshore state waters required approval by the Florida Cabinet. Under the new plan, telecommunication companies that lay fiber optic cables in one of five identified corridors off the coast of Broward and Palm Beach counties will be eligible for an expedited approval process by the Department. Proposals that use alternative undersea routes will still require approval and oversight by the Florida Cabinet.

Gov. Bush and Cabinet members directed the DEP to develop the new guidelines last December. The rule will go into effect twenty days after filing with the Department of State.

Environmentalists had urged the state to require companies to drill under the reefs or route their cables 100 miles north, where coral is less abundant, according to an Associated Press article. They cited a 1999 accident when two cables came loose and dislodged 283 corals.

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Aug 2003
Communicationsfiber opticsNews & Features

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