Casino Beach Getting New Turtle-Friendly Lights
Gulf Power and the Santa Rosa Island Authority are teaming up on a project to make Pensacola Beach a bit safer for both humans and sea turtles.
The project calls for new LED lights to be installed on the island. Buck Lee, Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority says the lights will be installed in the Casino Beach parking lot, the main parking lot on Pensacola Beach. Lee says these will be "turtle friendly lights" that will be downward facing so very little ambient light can be seen by sea turtle hatchlings who might mistake the light for the moon. When the turtles hatch, instinct makes them move towards the light they perceive as the moon towards the sea.
The work will be done in stages beginning near the Sheriff's Department annex building and should only affect a few parking spaces at a time. A total of 99 fixtures will be installed in the parking lot on a total of 38 aluminum poles. The poles will be 22 feet high, more than 10 feet lower than the 21 current light polls they will be replacing. Jeff Rogers, Communications manager for Gulf Power says the new L-E-D lights will be a big improvement over the existing lights. He says the LED lights are "way more resilient to the weather...they'll last a lot longer, and they tend to be a little recessed already in the light housing. So once you have an LED that's recessed and you add to it a shield, then you're really cutting down on that ambient light".
You're also cutting down on power usage. The current 250 fixtures will be replaced by 79 watt L-E-D fixtures. Gulf Power has been working with municipalities on similar lighting projects including one recently on Perdido Key where they put shielding on about 10 lights...again in an effort to keep ambient light away from turtle nests.
Buck Lee says a lot of lights along Pensacola Beach have already been replaced to keep the young sea turtles safe. The work on the Casino Beach parking lot is set to begin in early November. It should be done in January.