By Margie Plunkett
Boca Raton will not back off cutting back the sea grapes on A1A near Spanish River Boulevard, vowing to submit a plan to the state Department of Environmental Protection to trim the plants in four coastal view corridors.
The City Council reached a consensus after learning that in February the state had requested Boca Raton only cut back one corridor of sea grapes, expressing fears that cutting all four could increase lighting on the beach and hurt the procession of sea turtles that nest in the area.
Cutting on one of the corridors was one of three options the state gave Boca. A second would be a compromise that would allow the city to cut back two corridors and then monitor for a year before possibly proceeding with more sea grape trimming.. The third option: Go for all four corridors and, if the state denied the plan, continue to an administrative hearing on the matter.
The light the department is concerned with is from sky glow rather than street or other lighting in the area.
Council member Susan Haynie, however, questioned how the state justifies that both municipalities to the north and south of Boca Raton have open beachfronts.
Jennifer Bistyga of Municipal Services said that regulations tightened up after Delray Beach cut its sea grapes due to “impacts that may have happened there. They’re making it a tougher project.”
Tallahassee is, however, amenable to doing the two corridors, Bistyga said.
Mayor Susan Whelchel protested that the state had already reeled in a more expansive program to trim the sea grapes and had agreed to the four remaining corridors. “But lo and behold, it’s changed on a whim,” she said.
“We backed down from the original,” Whelchel said. “Whatever we submit, it’s never quite right.”
Council members and the public debated whether the turtle population was negatively impacted by issues such as sky glow, noting recent reports that the hatchling population was flourishing and had grown. But others clarified that the one year of increasing number of hatchlings followed several years that saw the population decline.
Council member Anthony Majhess supported trimming the sea grapes, explaining it allowed A1A motorists to see the road and the beach at the same time.
“It’s astounding to me,” said Jack Fox, president of the Beach Condo Association. “We were told it was reasonable and we’d like to have it.
“I’m an environmentalist, a fisherman. There’s nobody more concerned about the preservation of the species,” he said, adding that the question is that in front of Spanish River Park, the “beauty of that turquoise water shouldn’t be