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Anna Maria Island shore left out of federal protected coastline

By Jennifer Glenfield, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria shoreline. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Federal agencies designated coastal areas in six states as critical marine habitats for loggerhead sea turtles, but bypassed Anna Maria Island.

The National Marine Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services designated habitats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

Florida territories covered in the designation include a few beaches in the Panhandle near Pensacola and Apalachicola, but skip over the beaches south to Sarasota County. The territory begins again on Longboat Key and follows the Gulf coastline through Fort Myers and Naples.

The majority of Miami-Dade and Broward counties were not included, but stretches along the Atlantic Coast from Palm Beach County to Jacksonville were included.

The critical marine habitats account for 46 percent of the 1,531 miles of loggerhead nesting grounds and 84 percent of documented nests in the six states, the release said.

“Probably the main reason is, from us to the Panhandle, there’s very little nesting and they have to cut it off somewhere,” said Suzi Fox, executive director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring. “Our nesting numbers for 5 miles of beach are critical, but they’re really not that high in density.”

Fox said the designation might affect federal funding for research, beach improvements and renourishment in the areas that fall into the critical habitat. The designation also mostly affects land use.

“Our laws are pretty good. For areas that need more help, it’s better for them,” Fox said. “We don’t have casinos and we don’t go high and sideways with our buildings.”

“Protecting endangered and threatened species, including loggerhead sea turtles, is at the core of NOAA’s mission,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for fisheries with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a news release.

“Given the vital role loggerhead sea turtles play in maintaining the health of our oceans, rebuilding their populations is key as we work to ensure healthy and resilient oceans for generations to come.”

The designated habitats include near-shore reproductive areas, winter habitat, breeding habitat, constricted migratory corridors and Sargassum seagrass habitat, which is home to the majority of juvenile turtles.

“It’s really in the interest of the bigger picture of all loggerheads,” Fox said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with local laws and data collection. Nothing is different on the shoreline.”

The loggerhead is the most common sea turtle in southeast Florida waters, and is considered an imperiled species. Loggerheads are vulnerable to being hit by boats and snagged in fishing nets. They have been classified as a threatened species since 1978.

The habitat declaration, in addition to nesting beaches, includes more than 300,000 square miles of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest critical habitat area in the United States.

 

First sea turtle hatchlings emerge on Anna Maria Island

The first sea turtle nest to hatch in the nesting season on the island took place July 12 in the city of Anna Maria.

The nest is in Section 3, which covers the beachfront spanning from Pine Avenue in Anna Maria and 66th Street in Holmes Beach.

The Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring collects data on the number of nests laid, false crawls, number of hatched nests and the number of hatchlings that have made it to the Gulf of Mexico and reports to state agencies the findings.

According to Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, volunteers will excavate the nest three days after it hatches to determine the number of hatchlings that made it to the Gulf.

Federal guidelines prohibit the nest excavation before a three-day waiting period expires.

One Response to Anna Maria Island shore left out of federal protected coastline

  1. Patrick says:

    With respect to Ms. Fox, she doesn’t know what she is talking about when she says “we don’t go high and wide with our buildings.”

    Code limits the setbacks on properties such that those with the widest side facing the Gulf are forced to “go wide”. Federal flood requirements mean that those cozy cottages by the water can no longer be built on ground level. In most cases they cannot have a first floor start before 11-13 feet from the sand.

    Perhaps Suzi is talking about what she sees in many places, today. The problem is that the National Flood Insurance Program sets rates on island homes (all of them). The NFIP came real close this last Congressional session to eliminating the flood insurance subsidies that nearly every old home on the island currently enjoys (if it’s on/near the ground, you are getting an NFIP subsidy).

    Those subsidies are continuing for four more yers, and going to disappear. The differences are massive: FEMA has an info page that explains a house with coverage of $250K will have its annual premiums increase by more than $8,000 if you are four feet into the flood zone. Here on AMI, any ground-level home near the gulf or bay is going to be about ten foot into the zone, and central island properties on higher ground are easily 6 foot or so into it. Gulf props facing the water have to also add two foot for wave velocity. In the case of my old house, the ceiling of my second floor is still in the flood zone.

    While Suzi may be right today (and I am not picking on her), the simple truth is that the future of AMI is going to be tall. There is no way to avoid it. The only thing we can do is to set reasonable setbacks (meaning we reduce setbacks so we can build closer to the roads and neighbors) in order to avoid the really long buildings currently required by code. Those “long, tall” structures are really useful for little more than cheap hotel-like units. No family wants to live in a 20 foot wide, 80 foot long “house” built 14 foot off the ground.

    Problem is our city councils have no concept of changing conditions. Every new house has to be Long and tall”, and when the NFIP subsidies die, the properties we have now will be too expensive to own , as-is, for many residents. They will get sold and rebuilt in the image of the code.

    We need to get ahead of this.

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