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Undersea Cables Blamed for Coral Reef Damage

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VERO BEACH, Fla., Dec. 13 -- The Florida Cabinet approved a preliminary request Wednesday from environmental officials to channel future fiber optic cables away from corals and through five designated gaps in reefs.

The swaying motioin of fiber optic cables--used to connect central and Latin American phone and internet service with state residents--destroy brittle coral reef structures as they swing back and forth underwater, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which conducted a study focusing on the state-regulated waters off Broward County. PEER said the study shows that boat anchor snags, wave surges and coastal currents cause the cable lines to repeatedly batter the structures.

Florida had been considering a plan that would increase the number of cables crossing reef structures.

The PEER Coral Reef/Fiber Optical Cable Jury was formed in September, 2001 to assess the impact of carriage industry, primarily telecommunications, activity in and around environmentally sensitive coral reefs between the south Broward County line and the Oculina Bank near Cape Canaveral.

"The state's plan to install even more underwater cables lacks a realistic understanding of the damage already done," said PEER general counsel Dan Meyer. He said cable lines could be installed above the Oculina Bank, the northernmost point of Florida's coral reefs.

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Dec 2002
CommunicationsNews & Features

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