Posted by: reefrescue | April 19, 2010

Juno Beach sand unsuitable for turtle nesting

The Juno Beach Follies

Rush Limbaugh, dead sea turtles, children playing in turtle poop, condo owners in fear of being washed to sea and millions of dollars in cost overruns – its just another day at the beach in Palm Beach County.

US Fish and Wildlife Service inspection finds Juno Beach sand unsuitable for turtle nesting

Perhaps nothing serves to exemplify the lunacy of the south Florida policy of trying to put beaches where Mother Nature does not want them more than the just almost completed Juno Beach renourishment.  

In the latest south Florida insult to the environment an inspection by the US Fish and Wildlife Service found the $9 million dollars of sand pumped onto Juno Beach to widen it by 200 feet contains coral rubble. So much that sea turtles will be unable to use the beach for nesting. The solution; Palm Beach County is now forced to sift the sand to a depth of 3 to 5 feet along the 2.4 miles of newly installed beach, spending millions more in taxpayer dollars.

If you have been following the Juno Beach project follies you may ask yourself how could anything like this happen? The answer; this project went as smoothly as any south Florida beach project. Beach projects that in the past have attempted to bury the largest stand of Endangered Species Act protected staghorn coral in North America. The same staghorn colonies that are now a FDEP poster child for coral reef protection.  In 2003 the environmental group Cry-of-the-Water was forced to go to court to protect the coral that beach renourishment consultants said was not there. Or how about the acres of coral at Breakers Shallow Reef buried by Palm Beach, which they failed to mention in their post project monitoring reports. The same wealthy Town of Palm Beach that is seeking taxpayer FEMA dollars to pump more sand onto beaches they claim were eroded by storms five years ago. The same Palm Beach that opposes federal ESA habitat protection of their staghorn reefs. The real cost of these projects often go unnoticed by the public. Regulators are now seeking millions more for mitigation from Palm Beach and Broward County for acres of coral reef buried by past beach projects.

Juno Beach Project chronology:

January 4, Reef Rescue sends a report to the FDEP in Tallahassee listing 18 permit violations that occurred during the first six days of the Juno project that began December 21. In addition to the permit noncompliance episodes listed in the Reef Rescue report, Palm Beach County failed to submit the required water quality monitoring reports to the FDEP within the timeframe mandated by the permit.

Read more: Reef Rescue calls for a halt to construction until contractor complies with environmental permit.

January 8, the Juno dredge killed an endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. An investigation report issued by the US Corp of Army Engineers on January 9, found missing mesh on the turtle exclusion device allowed the turtle to be sucked into the vessel’s dredge head.

Read more: Juno Beach project kills endangered sea turtle.

March 1, marked the beginning of Sea Turtle nesting season in Palm Beach County for Rush Limbaugh, but not for the Juno Beach dredge. Limbaugh, anything but an environmentalist, is forced to turn off his porch lights, but the Juno project continues.

Read more: Statement from Rush Limbaugh, Executive Director and Lead Researcher of the Forthcoming Turtle Preservation Society of Palm Beach

Now enters retired CBS news executive producer Kevin Howell who begins a series of investigative reports on the Juno project.

See: Juno Beach project delays: nesting turtles go to “Plan B”

and

Sea turtle nesting season begins; beach work is weeks behind

March 9, a dead adult male endangered Leatherback sea turtle was found floating next to the Juno dredge site. A necropsy report found the otherwise healthy turtle drowned from unknown causes; however, due to a lack of extensive traumatic injuries the dredge was not implicated. A few days later another Leatherback was found in the vicinity, this one without a head. The official verdict – not the dredge – don’t be silly, it was sharks.

Read more: Green Peace, Sierra Club and others join Reef Rescue and call for a halt to the Juno Beach nourishment project 

and

Final report shows Leatherback drowned, but mystery unsolved 

As the Juno project winds down new concerns popup. In March volunteers monitoring the project for permit compliance and turtle nests discovered a pipe spewing water and a pool of scum in the center of the new beach. Water sample were taken and lab results showed the pipe was spitting out fecal coliform bacteria. Emails were sent, phone calls made and Kevin Howell uncovered another apparent bureaucratic screw-up. Discharge water from livestock pens.

Read more: State probe: forgotten Loggerhead Marinelife Center beach drain

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