Date: March 18, 1998
Contact: Gary Appelson
A sea wall now under construction in one of the world’s most important nesting sites for endangered sea turtles has been illegally authorized by Indian River County. The wall being built on Wabasso Beach has not been authorized by the state of Florida, and the deadline passed over a year ago for building a temporary “emergency” wall to protect homes during a 1996 storm. The beach in question is immediately adjacent to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – the most important nesting site for threatened and endangered sea turtles in North America. Endangered leatherbacks start nesting on the beach in March, while large numbers of loggerhead and green turtles will begin nesting in May. Sea walls can prevent sea turtles from being able to nest!
The STSL maintains that Indian River County does not have the authority to permit this sea wall. The current construction is being allowed by Indian River County based on an “emergency permit” issued more than a year ago; however, state law requires that emergency structures be built within 60 days after the declaration of an emergency.
The STSL is concerned about who is guarding Florida’s natural beaches, the state’s most priceless natural resources. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has ignored the sea wall construction and the STSL believes this disregard to be a blatant breach of DEP’s policy of “ecosystem management.”
This issue is important because it sets a precedent for how other Florida counties will interpret their responsibilities under a new state statute that allows local governments to approve temporary beach armoring structures immediately following a storm emergency. In this case, Indian River County declared an emergency after an April 1996 storm. Several homeowners at Wabasso Beach responded by building a permanent wall on the beach in front of their homes. Now, over a year later, additional homeowners are being allowed by the county to proceed with building “emergency armoring” although the emergency has long since passed.
Please contact Governor Lawton Chiles and DEP Secretary Ms. Virginia Wetherell and ask them to stop the sea wall construction. Ask that the laws of Florida be enforced and critical sea turtle nesting beaches be protected.
Governor Lawton Chiles
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
OR through the web site http://fcn.state.fl.us/eog/govmailforml
Virginia Wetherell Secretary, DEP
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399