Feds issue warning letter to Florida over new seawall construction, fear impact on sea turtles

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. -- - The debate over seawalls on Singer Island was elevated to new levels after the federal government sent a warning letter to the State of Florida surrounding its permitting process.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued a letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection expressing concerns regarding several new seawalls set for construction at the end of turtle nesting season in November.

Singer Island residents like Emma Horn insist the walls are needed especially after the widespread beach erosion caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"We thought we were going to lose our home. Everyone left in a big hurry, took what they could. When we got back, it was pretty devastating," said Horn, who has lived at Eastpointe Condominiums for 10 years.

Like Horn, resident Gladys Ravettine wants to see construction. She and other residents are ready to dish out at least $10,000 to build to the new seawall.

"There's several buildings that have seawalls already. We're trying to connect so that we can protect ourselves," said Ravettine.

Federal government officials said the plan goes too far. 

So far, six new walls have been approved this year and several others are awaiting state permitting. 

Biologist Kelly Martin at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is also concerned about the endangered sea turtle population and the future of their nesting if the walls are built.

"It literally is hitting a wall. They'll come up, they'll hit the seawall and they'll return to the water without nesting," said Martin.

Martin said if sea turtles do not have spots to nest, already low numbers could plummet even more.

"These are not just fun animals that everyone just want to go out and look at. They're actually an important biological contributor to the ocean life cycle," said Martin.

Singer Island residents said they too like sea turtles but stressed something has to be done before everyone loses.

"We will either put up seawalls and say goodbye to the turtles or we will have a category five hurricane and say goodbye to the turtles and the people who live on Singer Island," said Horn. 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the letter sent by the federal government. It has yet to respond to the concerns.

A spokesperson said all permits for seawalls that have been approved follow state guidelines and code.

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