Illegal beach repairs impacting turtles
Beachfront property owners trying to repair erosion caused by Tropical Storm Debby last month need permits, or they violate turtle laws, according to Steve West, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“It’s not unusual for people to take matters into their own hands, but this is marine turtle season,” said West, who has been inspecting Anna Maria Island beaches. “I think that it is being violated quite a bit, and turtle people are upset.”
People have been dumping gravel, building stairways and spreading new sand, all violations observed and reported by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox since last month’s storm.
Nesting sea turtles and hatchlings can become trapped under stairways. Dumping sand on top of a nest may make it difficult for hatchlings to dig out. Using the wrong kind of sand or gravel makes it hard for mother turtles to dig nests, which they will be doing for another couple of weeks.
Hatchlings begin digging out of their nests this month.
Turtles have broken their nesting record on Anna Maria Island this season, with 238 nests laid since May 1 compared to last year’s 145 nests.
But the storm blew away most of the turtle marking stakes on the Island and flooded nests, which may not survive. Other nests may have been washed out into the Gulf, Fox said, adding that she will not know until the last nest hatches how many of the 180 nests laid before the June 24-26 storm were lost.
Meanwhile, beachfront property owners who need to make repairs should apply for permits at the Island’s three city halls, West said, adding that in most cases, “It will also require a permit from DEP.”
So far, West has found minor to moderate erosion on the Island, some which may recover within a few weeks with the natural movement of sand in the tides, and some – like two- to three-foot high escarpments – that can only be repaired by a beach restoration project, he said.
The Manatee County Natural Resources Department is working to secure scarce funding to move up the planned 2014 beach renourishment to 2013.
If you see construction activity on or near the beach, you can report it to building officials in each city (Anna Maria, 941-708-6130; Bradenton Beach, 941-778-1005; Holmes Beach, 941-708-5800) or to West at 941-861-0667, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.