Byline: Steve Patterson, Times-Union staff writer
Environmentalists concerned about manatee deaths have filed a federal lawsuit in Washington to delay construction of a Southside Jacksonville boat ramp.
The suit over the city-owned ramp on Goodbys Creek seeks to "send a message" to federal agencies about manatee protection in several Florida waterways, said a scientist with the Save the Manatee Club, one of four groups bringing the case.
Building permit applications for the $1.4 million project are pending with city officials. When it was proposed last year, the ramp was intended to have two floating docks and parking for 42 boat trailers.
At least 11 manatees died in Duval County this year because of collisions with watercraft, a local record, said the suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department. Manatees are federally protected as an endangered species.
The lawsuit said the agencies broke an agreement reached last year to settle another court case by improving manatee protections in several Florida waterways, including the St. Johns River in Duval County.
"It's important that when you sign settlement agreements . . . you do what you say," Patti Thompson, the Manatee Club's director of science and conservation, said. "Somebody needs to bring you to face the consequences."
The Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife are also plaintiffs in the case.
The groups argue the federal agencies should not have approved environmental …