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(US FL) Turtles Toddle Toward Trouble August 21, 2005 11:46 AM


 

August 21, 2005

Turtles toddle toward trouble

Snuffing lights didn't turn new hatchlings to sea

BY JIM WAYMER
FLORIDA TODAY

The night after two streetlights were turned off on Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach, a herd of freshly hatched sea turtles still toddled up the beach access ramp at the eastern end, heading for trouble.

One made it all the way to State Road A1A.

Complaints had been made about the lighting, which may draw the hatchlings away from the ocean and toward the street.

Officials said the lights will stay off for the rest of the sea turtle season -- which runs through Nov. 1 -- or until Florida Power and Light and the city come up with a way to keep the lights from disorienting turtles. Other city streetlights may have to be turned off or shielded.

"It really needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis," said Bob Torres, Cocoa Beach public works director.

City officials have been walking the beach late at night, looking for lighting problems. On Thursday, they put up a silt fence at the beach ramp on Minutemen to block turtles from reaching the road. The week before, FPL turned off the two streetlights.

Sea turtle advocates said they're relieved city officials finally are dealing with beach lighting problems they brought to the city's attention this month.

"They're definitely showing us in good faith that they're working on it," said Nancy Yates, who monitors turtle hatching for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, an environmental group.

Yates said the remaining lighting problem at the end of Minutemen may be from the two restaurants and nearby traffic lights.

Contact Waymer at 242-3663 or jwaymer@flatoday.net


Welcoming waves. A baby sea turtle makes its way toward the waters off Cocoa Beach. The city has turned off two streetlights in an attempt to get the hatchlings headed in the right direction. FLORIDA TODAY file
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