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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Open House, Public Hearing Set For August 7th On Proposed Federal Rules For Beach Use; Turtle Habitat

Open House, Public Hearing Set For August 7th On Proposed Federal Rules For Beach Use; Turtle Habitat

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Earlier this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed rules to designate many areas on the East Coast and Gulf Coast as "critical habitat" for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.
USFWS proposed broad restrictions on what can be done in coastal regions where loggerheads nest covering what is allowed to be done on the beach and how beaches are managed.
The proposal could affect beach nourishment projects and activities on the beach such as driving and removing debris. Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are included in the designated area as critical habitat. Driving on the beach at Freeman Park is mentioned in the proposal.
The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is speaking out on the issue. According to the ASBPA, "ASBPA and its members strongly support management approaches to protect the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. Nevertheless, we are apprehensive about the proposed Critical Habitat Designation, which includes 740 miles of coastline from North Carolina to Mississippi, and the methodology behind the designation."
In a statement issued April 6, ASBPA explained, "The proposed rule cites beach sand placement as one of twelve primary threats to loggerhead habitat, but relies upon data from 1999 to support that claim. The practice of managing beaches in order to protect environmental resources has advanced significantly since then. All U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment projects must go through a thorough environmental review process before approval; and many state and local governments currently have management plans in place to protect wildlife and habitat. These mandatory plans specifically address nesting habitat for sea turtles."
ASBPA explained, "The proposed rule acknowledges, "a nourished beach that is designed and constructed to mimic a natural beach system may benefit sea turtles more than an eroding beach it replaces." However, it claims a larger proportion of turtles abandon attempts to nest on engineered beaches compared to natural beaches, due chiefly to physical differences between the two post-construction. Also cited by the rule as interfering with nesting are groins and jetties, coastal development, recreational beach use, predation, and the increased severity of tropical storms caused by global warming, among other elements."
The statement continues, "No one will argue against protecting loggerheads, but the broad designation advocated  by USFWS may not achieve much protection – and could bring with it a significant cost. Failure to adequately restore eroded coastlines would not only reduce the nesting habitat for turtles (who thrive on a wide natural beach), it could pose significant threats to coastal economies (who thrive on the visitors and residents healthy beaches bring), to recreation (since beaches are more highly used than all our public parks combined) and to private properties and public infrastructure (which are best protected by wide beaches and high dunes to keep storm waves away). This potentially pits turtles against people – and that’s just not necessary nor productive."
The ASBPA explains, "As the proposed rule states, well-nourished beaches can often be beneficial to providing nesting habitat for sea turtles. ASBPA points to years of turtle monitoring data from successful beach nourishment projects to document both the benefit of these projects to turtle habitat, and the evolutionary improvements in technology that have resolved any conflicts to further minimize potential dangers to sea turtles over time. ASBPA believes that management tools to accomplish loggerhead protections are
best applied when all resources are balanced in the decision making process; and we urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fully consider all of the environmental, recreational, and economic effects of the proposed rule. We are assessing this proposal and will provide our conclusions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We gladly offer to assist the Service, through the expertise of our scientist members, a partnering arrangement to address the needs of the multiple natural resources requiring management and wise stewardship."
ASBPA explains, "Remember, all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment projects face a thorough environmental review before approval, and many state and local governments currently have management plans
in place to protect wildlife and habitat as well. It would be prudent to expand those efforts first, to ensure that turtle habitat is protected but not to the exclusion of other activities – and that the myriad threats to nesting are considered as part of the planning process for use and management, not after the fact."
A portion of the proposal from USFWS concerning Pleasure Island states, "The local municipality portion includes half of Freeman Park Recreation Area, which is managed by the Town of Carolina Beach. The County portion includes the other half of Freeman
Park Recreation Area, which is also managed by the Town of Carolina Beach under an interlocal agreement with New Hanover County. This unit was occupied at the time of listing and is currently occupied. This unit supports expansion of nesting from an adjacent unit (LOGG-T-NC-06) that has high-density nesting by loggerhead sea turtles in North Carolina. This unit contains all of the Physical or Biological Features and Primary Constituent Elements. The PBFs in this unit may require special management considerations or protections to ameliorate the threats of recreational use, beach driving, predation, beach sand placement activities, in-water and shoreline alterations, climate change, beach erosion, artificial lighting, human-caused disasters, and response to disasters. At this time, we are not aware of any management plans that address this species in this area."
The US Fish and Wildlife service will hold an informational open house and public hearing regarding the designation of a critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles in six southeastern states (NC included) as follows:
August 7, 2013 at UNCW Warwick Center, Ballroom 5 (629 Hamilton Dr)
Attendee campus parking is available in Lots ‘E’ and ‘M.’
Informational Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Formal Public Hearing: 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Local governing bodies are concerned that this designation may negatively impact recreational beach use, driving, sand placement, coastal development, dredging, and other activities. The Town Council encourages citizen participation in this event.